Category Archives: Research

Come and see the amphibians at REGUA

The Atlantic Rainforest at REGUA is well protected and expanding, and one of the prime habitat quality indicator species are amphibians.  Are the populations stable or declining?

Proceratophrys appendiculata (©Nicholas Locke)

Researchers are always interested as their population numbers reflect air quality and air humidity levels, which in turn are affected by forest cover.   There are over seventy amphibian species at REGUA and with programmes in forest protection and expansion, all species appear to be in good shape.

One genus that attracts attention is the Atlantic rainforest endemic Horned frog which we found on the green trail recently.    Both Proceratophrys appendiculata (also known as Guenther’s Horned Frog) and Proceratophrys boiei were seen.   They live in the leaf litter in forests up to an altitude of around 1200m, and spawn in forest streams.

Both species are relatively common at REGUA and all visitors like to pick them up and get a closer look at them. They sit immobile and looking rather glum, patiently waiting to be returned to the ground when they hop off into the leaf litter and are quickly almost impossible to refind.

Proceratophrys boiei (© Nicholas Locke)

 

 

 

 

 

Danish Travel Fund land is forested

Ready to plant 2017 (© Nicholas Locke)

The amazing thing about planting trees is that they will grow with a little effort, dedication and perseverance.

The area of the Matumbo Gap acquired by the Danish Travel Fund is an example of such an area.   Planted in early 2017, the area a year later has already closed and the grass has virtually gone, crowded out by the strong saplings as they drink up the generous Brazilian rainfall throughout the summer, and grow towards our sunlight .

REGUA planted over 25,000 trees in this area some of which were also funded by the World Land Trust’s  “Forests of the Future” initiative.

The mix of over 150 native species are growing very well and REGUA has engaged the Rio Rural University in monitoring plant plots to measure growth.

January 2018 (© Nicholas Locke)

Water Monitoring

A windy and cloudy Saturday full of activities as the Education Officers of the Guapiaçu Grande Vida team held a student training course.

They are being taught to use the water-monitoring kit which they will use in the Macacu and Guapiaçu rivers.    Arriving in the morning for breakfast they left after lunch with a certificate acknowledging they had completed this twenty hour course in three sessions.

Water testing

The syllabus included topics such as river basin management, mapping, environmental education and it’s relevance as a tool for conservation,  use of trails and open public areas with an educational approach, water cycle and water sampling for physical and chemical analysis.

Another successful day with enthusiastic students and tutors.

Guapiaçu Grande Vida Project – Phase II

Guapiaçu Grande Vida (GGV) Petrobrás funded project is back at REGUA!

On September 11th the GGV team gathered at REGUA to start the work which will be carried out during the next two years.

With the restoration of a further 60 hectares of degraded land and the monitoring of water quality in the Guapiaçú and Macacu rivers (at six fixed points in both rivers upstream and downstream), the GGV project aims at contributing to the safeguarding of a healthy forest ecosystem and  fresh water availability for human consumption.

The innovation of the GGV second phase is the inclusion of Cachoeiras de Macacu County Council as a formal partner with the assignment of a teacher and a biologist to assist the GGV Environmental Education staff.

Degraded Hillside to be planted (©Aline Damasceno de Azevedo)

The GGV official launch took place on September 21st at the County Council headquarters in Cachoeiras de Macacu town.   Petrobras representatives, local authorities including the Council´s Mayor and civil society representatives attended the ceremony.

The GGV monitoring of 100 hectares planted in 2013 will be included as part of the forest restoration programme.    A training course for this purpose will be held for the tree-planting staff at REGUA’s Conservation Centre.    Growth rates and biomass are to be measured by the students.

The GGV Environmental Education programme based on the monitoring of water quality in the Guapiaçú and Macacu rivers will select 40 students from one County Council run school and one State run school in Cachoeiras de Macacu town.   The selected group of students are currently undertaking their first and second year of secondary school level education. The students will be selected according to their grades and their interest to take part in this innovative water quality monitoring of the Guapiaçú and Macacu rivers. The GGV Environmental Education team will use rented vehicles to transport the students from their schools to the water monitoring  sites.

The Environmental Education programme will also organize a teacher training course and a  training course for nature guides. These two courses envision the use of the wetland trails maximising their educational potential for school and group visits.

New Scorpion for REGUA

Scorpions are predatory Arachnid of the Scorpione order.   Triggering fear and respect, scorpions are in fact difficult to find in this region of the Atlantic rainforest, and here at REGUA, we have only photos of the common yellow scorpion, Tityus serrulatus which are still relatively uncommon.

Professor Renner Baptista of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro was therefore surprised with this latest find.

Unidentified Scorpion (© Nicholas Locke)

Whilst searching for other Arachnids along with students Hector and Gabriel, they came across an unusual scorpion, their first for REGUA.   Found lying under a log at night, this 6cm long little fellow still has to be identified. Promising!

 

Heliconia, Hummingbird and Soldierfly Research

Andrew Proudfoot, REGUA Volunteer, reports on research work at REGUA.

“The two men in the middle drop in on Caio Missagia (right) who, helped by his friend Juan, is working towards a doctoral thesis on the intricate relationship between Heliconia spathocircinata, three Hummingbirds (Violet-capped Woodnymph, Reddish Hermit and Saw-billed Hermit) and a Hoverfly (Syrphidae) and Soldierfly (Stratiomyidae) species.

Juan and Caio with Andrew and Thor (REGUA Volunteers) (© REGUA)

Who benefits, who loses and by how much?    Heliconia needs pollination visits from the hummingbird and could provide a plentiful nectar reward.   Larvae of the two fly species are kleptoparasites, gorging on the sugary tissues deep within the protected bracts of the plant’s familiar boat-shaped flowers.   If only those paired bracts were more open, marauding ants might rid the flower of its freeloading flies.

The Amazonian species has no hiding place for Diptera larvae and perhaps it has no trouble supplying its pollinators with nectar. Natural selection could have driven the development of a less enclosed host plant flower. As the Heliconia provides less resource for the hummingbirds, what is the impact on pollinator behaviour and fitness? Fewer birds are recorded visiting infected flowers.

As yet, Caio has no clear answers to these important questions and whether or not Heliconia spathocircinata might be pushed to control these unwelcome freeloaders? An unfolding story; at REGUA we await the next instalment with excitement!”

Andrew Proudfoot

Post-graduates at REGUA

REGUA was delighted to receive 35 students from Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University undertaking their first MBE field trip.

This is a renowned business post-graduate course in Environmental Management aimed at preparing students to face the world of green responsibility in industry and government.

The Post-graduates at REGUA (© REGUA)

The group was able to learn about REGUA’s reforestation programme and see all stages of planting progress.  They enjoyed the day and returned to Rio with a valuable experience in the efforts needed to restore the Atlantic Rainforest.

 

Butterfly rarity

Ortilia polinella
Female Ortilia polinella, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)

Work on the next REGUA field guide, Observation Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, is progressing at good pace, and with it lots of new knowledge about the local butterfly fauna, together with some novelties, new records from guests, volunteers and visitor’s photographs have been consistently pouring in.

One notable rarity was found by Duncan McGeough, a volunteer from Germany in October 2013, just 30 metres from the REGUA office. Ortilia polinella (A. Hall, 1928), a crescent butterfly, is a cousin of the Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxia from Europe. Known from less than a half-dozen localities in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, and also very seldom found in collections (only three females and six males in the Natural History Museum, London) this was a superb find!

Adults are mainly forest species that dwell in sunlit areas like trails, clearings, forest edges, etc. It’s biology is unknown, but other species in the genus use Justicia spp. as foodplants (Acanthaceae). The photo depicts a worn female sun basking, probably in between short exploratory flights to find a suitable plant for ovipositing.

Duncan has also helped with the creation of the REGUA moth leaflet that guests can pick up at the lodge, featuring 60 common moths easily spotted in the moth wall.

Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:

Type specimens photos: http://butterfliesofamerica.com/L/t/Ortilia_polinella_a.htm

Higgins revision of Phyciodes/Ortilia: http://archive.org/stream/bulletinofbritis43entolond#page/119/mode/1up

Restoration Pact Workshop takes place at REGUA

REGUA recently hosted the Atlantic Rainforest Restoration Pact workshop.   The Restoration Pact is made up of all the environmental projects that are in some ways contributing to increasing forest cover in the biome.

Headed by the Brazilian organization CEPAN, and funded by German development bank, KfW, REGUA hosted this three day workshop with professionals in the field o

Course Participants (© REGUA)

f restoration from all over Brazil.

Severino and Ludmilla, led the group and the aim of the three days here was to test and improve monitoring techniques needed for the Pact restoration process.

Itself a member, this was also an opportunity to present REGUA’s work and the group was divided into three teams to test the techniques the Pact had developed.   Out in the field the groups were very impressed with REGUA’s forest restoration process which left us not only proud of our efforts but committed to continue reforesting.

This is often the type of support needed to reach out and keep up the motivation factor. We are only too happy to contribute.

Three Generations visit REGUA

Helmut Seehawer has been visiting REGUA for many years.   As a former Lufthansa Airline Pilot, he flew from Germany to Brazil regularly, and in his free time explored the countryside.

On one occasion he travelled with his colleagues to Paraty in Rio State.  In those days there were no roads and travelling was a real adventure.   One of his friends was keen to find orchids and although Helmut could not understand the fascination, he wanted to explore the jungle.   He was delighted when they found some unspoilt forests with their huge trees, tangles and epiphytes.

The friend pointed out large, bright flowers of orchids on the branches of the trees, and at times the two of them climbed trees to get closer views, occasionally jumping from one tree to the other using the branches and vines.

Whilst climbing the trees, Helmut noticed some smaller plants with more delicate flowers, these too were Orchids and a passion was realised.

Helmut purchased a “Sitio” or property in the mountains near Nova Friburgo so that he could explore and protect the habitat there, especially the wonderful orchids he had grown to love.

Three Generations ~ Klaus, Helmut and Katja back at REGUA (© Seehawer family)

A collaboration with David Miller, Richard Warren and Isabel Moura Miller in the late 1990’s resulted in the  acclaimed book ‘Serra Dos Órgãos Sua Historia e Suas Orquideas’ [Serra Dos Órgãos your history and your orchid]’.

Published in 2006, the book features over 200 superb illustrations by Helmut, in wonderful detail. [See below for just one example]

Helmut is back at REGUA for an extended visit with his son Klaus and grand-daughter Katja, who are both carrying on the family love of biology and nature.   Klaus is a snake enthusiast and has spent long days in the field looking for snakes, whilst Katja has previously spent time as a Volunteer researcher at REGUA, studying the mammals around the wetland.

 

Illustrations by Helmut Seehawer (photo by Sue Healey)