Category Archives: Restoration

Volunteer Thor plants his first Brazilian Tree

REGUA Volunteer Thor Smestad hails from British Columbia, Canada.   He came to Brazil to fulfill a dream, to plant trees in Brazil.

Thor Smestad Planting his first Brazilian Tree (© Nicholas Locke)

With a diploma in Forestry Technology and a degree in Forest Resources Management  Thor brings a new approach to our propagation model.    As he is a specialist in propagation from from cuttings he started by taking cuttings from four Brazilian species to test how successful they are in rooting.    This would be a major breakthrough in reducing reforestation costs and his cuttings placed in buckets with small air pumps lay in tubs of water waiting to root.    Thor has seen the re-forested areas and the latest areas planted and is amazed at the scale in which REGUA is working.    He has offered some valuable contributions in improving the quality of planting.   We were able to reward Thor by planting two very special seedlings of  “Guarajuba”, (Terminalia acuminate) donated by the botanist Pablo Prieto.

We had heard about these endangered trees from Pablo, a senior researcher at the Botanical Gardens in Rio de Janeiro.   He is involved in compiling the Red data list of plants of the Atlantic Rainforest.   There are six individual Guarajuba trees in the Botanical Gardens of Rio but when botanists started searching in the forests around Rio city and in the best remaining tracts of forest, none could be found.   It was thought that the species had been lost in the wild.

Guarajuba wood was well known for its high quality timber which was used to for buildings and boats.  Being valuable led to trees being cut down in huge numbers.

Volunteer Thor plants a Guarajuba Tree (Terminalia acuminata) (© Nicholas Locke)

However upon researching the Tijuca forest last year, botanists came across 28 examples of this very species.   They had probably been planted in 1861-1874 when Major Archer spearheaded the reforestation of the degraded hill under Christ the Redeemer as its water sources had dried up.    Pablo found some seeds under this tree and germinated them at home.   He generously brought two examples for us to plant at front of REGUA.

This is just terrific and short of opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate we are overjoyed that Thor could plant both the trees for us and hope that in a few years we shall also have seeds to plant elsewhere.

400,000th tree planted!

REGUA planted its 400,000 tree on November 23rd 2016.   The tree species to get this wonderful accolade is  “Angelim de morcego”,  Andira anthelmia.

Raquel with REGUA’s 400,000th Tree (© Nicholas Locke)

One of Raquel’s favourite trees, the planting was made possible by the World Land Trust UK as part of its “Plant a tree” fund, and with the land donated to REGUA by the Danish Travel Fund this was truly a team success.   This particular piece of land is very important as it faces the High Matumbo community and strengthens the barrier of the forest.

This marks a very important point in history for us all and we can only hope that we can, with your support continue to plant trees and reach a million!

90% of REGUA’s trees come from its plant nursery and the entire process of restoration involves local community members and is admired by local residents.

Thank you again – this just proves what can be done when we work together and there is the will to succeed.

Nicholas Locke

World Land Trust – Forests of the Future Fund

The forests at REGUA are growing! The area known to friends as the Protestant land in the Matumbo Gap was an area of pasture that REGUA had long wanted to reforest.   It represented a corridor that could link precious areas to the main REGUA block of forest.

The Planting Team with Raquel Locke, REGUA's Vice President and Sue Healey UK Volunteer.
The Planting Team with Raquel Locke, REGUA’s Vice President and Sue Healey UK Volunteer. (© REGUA)

The World Land Trust had helped us acquire the land in 2014 but the thick mat of imperata or brachiaria grasses was not permitting trees to germinate and gain a foothold. The answer lay in an assisted planting scheme.

The World land Trust helped us again with a grant “Forests of the Future Fund” and Seotaiji the great South Korean singer helped us with the necessary funds to enable the planting of 10,000 REGUA nursery native trees.  Only a year later the results show for themselves.

We have taken many guests and specialists who have been bowled over with the rapid growth of the trees showing that the trees are anxious to form a forest once again. The weather was kind to us after an initial drought and since we have been looking very well after the forests. I wish all forests could grow so quickly!

One year on
One year on (© Sue Healey)

We are now preparing another area for the World Land Trust  “Forests of the Future” programme, but thank you World Land Trust and Seotaiji so much for this important support.

Offset your carbon emissions with REGUA

Seedlings as wedding favours
Seedlings as wedding favours (© Faith Wilson)

Ben Phalan and Luciana Leite de Araújo got married recently in Arembepe, Bahia, Brazil. Both are environmentally concerned and decided to offset the 133 tonnes of carbon emissions created by themselves, their family and friends in travelling to the wedding. Although most of their guests were from within Brazil, their multi-nation guests came from as far away as Salvador, Oregon and Philadelphia in the US, Prague, England, Scotland and Ireland.

They chose two projects dear to them – REGUA and the Golden Lion Tamarin project. Ben and Luciana also gave away native “Ipé Rosa” seedlings to Brazilian friends at the wedding in commemoration of their union.

Thank you Ben and Luciana and may your trees grow and grow. The funds will be used for REGUA’s restoration project and will enable us to plant around 400 trees.

Guanabara Watershed Committee

REGUA have been invited to attend meetings of the Eastern Bay of Guanabara Watershed Committee (held in Niteroi city) which is gaining momentum and reputation.   The Group discuss and plan the future requirements of water use for the general public, government and industry.

This is an important committee to have representation in, as the concept of payments for ecological  services is gradually being discussed and could possibly soon be implemented.   REGUA may be eligible for future payments as we protect the water of the Guapiaçu river and restore forests in the watershed.

Raquel Locke, REGUA’s Vice President and Lorena an independent mapping consultant working with REGUA, will attend these meetings.   The Rio de Janeiro Government accepts and understands the strategic importance of the eastern Guanabara bay area for the provision of clean drinking water to eastern Rio de Janeiro and its metropolitan areas.

The Guapiaçu and Macacu rivers have their sources in Cachoeiras de Macacu Municipality.   Together they provide water to over 3.5 million people in Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro and the inclusion of REGUA within this initiative enables us to encourage the replication of our model within this vital area.

 

Three more RPPN certificates are granted

REGUA was delighted to attend a presentation in Rio recently for three more areas of the Reserve to be granted RPPN status.

Presenting 18 awards to various land owners were  André Correâ,  Rio de Janeiro State Secretary for the Environment and Paul Schiavo, Director of Biodiversity for the State Institute of the Environment (INEA).

Nicholas (far right) receiving three RPPN Certificates
Nicholas (far right) with other recipients of RPPN Certificates (© Sue Healey)

The 18 new certificates cover around 900 hectares, bringing the total number of RPPN protected areas to 78 and a total area of 11,000 hectares.   They are located in 12 local authorities across the State and are contributing to the preservation of important fragments of Atlantic Forest.

André Correâ acknowledged that the owners of the 78 RPPN areas had achieved their work  without support and congratulated them saying:
“The most ancient civilisations said that the life is worthwhile when your son is born, you plant a tree and write a book. You are going there, are contributing with your legacy, with much more than a tree, and who knows that these RPPNs will not serve as inspiration for a book.”

He added that the State Environment Agency want to  ….
” build a policy of tourist attractions. Let’s build a sustainable tourism programme, ecotourism, for RPPNs.  Another important issue is how to trade in the stock of carbon held in these preserved trees. This may become attractive to make a RPPN not only by the legitimate gesture of wanting to preserve the heritage”

Paul Schiavo added
“The creation of private reserves means that society is moving towards managing to participate in the day to day control of areas  fundamental to guarantee life.   Many of these private reserves are the major water sources in a region.   We will increasingly encourage, facilitate the creation, so that those gaps that the state does not fill is complete by individuals“ 

Their words totally confirm REGUA’s successful model for sustainable ecotourism supporting the mission of the long-term conservation of the forests of the upper Guapiaçu river basin.

REGUA – Building Relationships

REGUA’s collaboration in the Guapiaçu Grande Vida Project brought many long-term advantages to the Reserve.   A team made up of professionals with experience in project management, forest engineering, public engagement, education from school to local authority level, mapping, publicity and media promotion.   All had roots in the municipality and together were able to develop and implement a project that took REGUA into the main stream of conservation work in Brazil.

During the two and a half years of the project, GGV was a tremendous success.   Planting 100 hectares of Atlantic Forest with 180,000 trees, mapping almost half the 450km ² watershed, consolidating an education programme involving 5,000 school children and responsible for REGUA’s first scientific seminar with 50 works amongst University researchers.

The project helped upscale REGUA’s capacity in forest restoration, fostered an understanding of the municipal’s environmental importance and enabled REGUA to identify land use and forest cover, which in turn helped prioritize areas for further land purchase.   The project terminated at the end of 2015,  but we are grateful for their contribution.

 

REGUA GGV Project Team
REGUA GGV Project Team (© Tatiana Horta)

The team, although dispersed, continues to be active.   Gabriela now works for German development bank GIZ, promoting development work across Brazil, she also runs her own environmental consultancy.   Tatiana and Bruno have returned to teaching.  Nathalie is working in tourism in her own lodge.

Lorena is an independent geographer and continues to have ties with REGUA, representing the institution at the Guanabara Watershed Committee and Agenda 21 meetings.    Aline is a freelance Forestry Engineer working with REGUA to design new planting areas and continuing to monitor previous reforestation areas.

Professor Carlos works at REGUA on a part-time basis, expanding our Schools Outreach and Young Ranger programmes whilst Ana Caroline has joined the staff continuing to give REGUA her best in the office.

REGUA is very grateful for their input and proud to be able to play a part in the continued success of these valued friends and welcome their support in the future.

Exotic Tree Species

Syzygium malaccense (sometimes called Mountain or Malaysian apple) is a very interesting tree and is widely planted for its bright red fruit.

This tree was included in the very first re-forestation areas at REGUA  for two reasons:

  • we loved the tree as it brings in many butterflies on its rotting fruit and
  • at the time we weren’t following a rigorous planting method

For the same reasons we also added Syzygium cumini, and specialists informed us that this species was native to northeast Brazil.   Forestry engineers do not believe that either species is a threat as an invasive species, but we are slowly cutting down Syzygium malaccensis as we aim to get as faithful as possible to the list of native Atlantic Forest species.

Syzygium malaccense flower by Mike Patrikeev
Syzygium malaccense flower (© Michael Patrikeev)

Many reforestation projects are planting species from different areas of Brazil including the Amazon and the Cerrado. There are two fundamental reasons for this; nurseries have difficulty accessing seeds as the law prohibits seeds being collected from local parks and the climate has changed so that the drier Cerrado species actually grow well in the slightly altered climate at REGUA.

Typical examples are Cassia grandis and Triplaris brasilensis both from the Amazon.  Other erroneously planted species of the past is Artoparpus integrifolia, the jackfruit which has covered large areas of the Tijuca park and Ilha Grande.   The Oil palm Eleias guinansis, planted for over centuries by farmers and workers for oil and making soap has likewise spread since it germinates very well in primary forest and is eaten and dispersed by virtually every animal from agouti to vulture.    It is easy to see how species like these get out of control.

Fire threatens new Plantation

Recently, whilst returning from the lodge mid-morning Raquel and I were surprised to see a plume of almost transparent smoke arising from the Petrobras funded reforestation planting.

As the plume swirled from behind a small hill of pasture, initially we thought it was a large BBQ in the local village, but we thought it worthwhile checking out, just in case.   Low and behold as we approached we realized some mischievous youngster had put fire to the dead material around the young trees.   Though the weather has been favourable with much rain recently, one day of sun is enough to dry things out and offer a laugh to marauding pranksters.

Fire in new Plantation
Fire in new Plantation (© Nicholas Locke)

The culprits had long gone and we soon put out the fire and the rain came down in the afternoon to help matters.

Although we know this fire was not the efforts of a local saboteur angry over REGUA’s efforts in conservation, we still have to keep a close look out for this sort of action.  Happily it wasn’t a large area and the plants were not too badly scorched.

Is it possible to save the world?

Where should you start? Rewilding is a great term. I am not convinced that is the way to go with our present urban and environmental pressures. If it is a challenge here in rural REGUA, a place where change is still possible, how are we going to conserve natural resources elsewhere?

I was happy to learn from seeing the Sebastião Salgado film (the reforestation project in Brazil) that over half the world is actually in a really good state, although the majority of this is comprised of mainly wilderness areas. Evidently if it were possible to make a master plan and carry it out, the main actions would be:

  • fully protect what’s left in the world
  • reduce our impact on the world through reduction, re-use and recycling
  • educate and promote conservation on a global scale
  • introduce obligations for reforesting degraded land
  • prioritise the protection of large continuous fragments of over 100,000 hectares and areas where threatened species occur

All of this within an international binding agreement.

We have to learn that in some areas of the world, ecosystems are so badly damaged that it is just not cost-effective to invest incredible sums to restore habitat, especially where there are other areas in less damaged state where less money will achieve a lot more. I do appreciate however, that there is a need for so much to be done.

Obviously, as guardians of the planet we need a different mindset, for this is about sharing the world’s problems, thinking and acting as one rather than our own individual needs, although I understand how politically contentious this is.