Category Archives: Tree planting

REGUA interview with talk: Wildlife

Last week, Allan Archer of talk: Wildlife interviewed Lee Dingain of the REGUA UK Team about the work that REGUA is doing to conserve and restore the Atlantic Forest of the upper Guapiaçu valley. The conversation covers topics such as the habitats and biodiversity at REGUA, the threats to the forest and biodiversity, reforestation, wetland restoration, the tapir reintroduction, and how to visit REGUA. To watch the interview visit the talk: Wildlife YouTube channel or click below.

Ecosia

REGUA recently hosted Pieter van Midwoud, project director at  Ecosia and their partner Joaquim Freitas of the “Atlantic Rainforest Pact”.    They visited as they have funded REGUA’s restoration programme and wanted to see the developments.

Ecosia is a global search engine platform now centred in Switzerland and part of its profits are directed to tropical tree planting around the Globe.

Ecosia offers a small top-up grant to existing projects and in this way reached to part-funding  60 million trees by June 2019,  today one of the greatest contributors to restoration efforts in the world.

Aline (forestry engineer), Joaquim, Pieter & Ana (from Ecosia) and Raquel overlooking the Pacielo tree planting (© REGUA)

Last November, Joaquim brought Pieter to see REGUA’s contribution over the last three years and was totally bowled over by the results.   We hope that Ecosia can continue to help us for their grant is very important to fuel our efforts.

Restoration in action!

Newly planted (© REGUA)

Photographic registers are always great and can often give one a shock when seeing how fast forests, when properly cultivated, can spring back into life.    An area of grassland acquired from the Lemgruber family represented an important forest corridor to areas both to sides.   The World Land Trust rushed to our support and helped fund this tree planting which has resulted in this extraordinary transformation. This forest is only 24 months growth!!

Over 150 species were planted in the green grasslands in March 2018 and carefully tended. The results are dramatic!

We are very grateful to the REGUA field team who have put the effort and the WLT team who funded us. The results are worth every effort and today we have birds and mammals associated with secondary forest cover using this young forest. Thank you all for your support in providing area for these trees, it’s another 7 hectares that will turn into RPPN shortly and be protected for ever. This is the very essence of REGUA’s work here in the Atlantic rainforest, a global hotspot, in its aim of

24 months later (© REGUA)

guaranteeing forests for the future.

The Guapiaçu Grande Vida Project becomes the Guapiaçu Project

The Guapiaçu Project team with Nicholas, Raquel and Thomas Locke (© Breno Vianna)
Reforestation undertaken during the GGV I project showing tree growth in less than a year (© Nathalie Horta)

The Guapiaçu Grande Vida (GGV II) Petrobras funded forest restoration and environmental education project has now come to the end, after two more productive years at REGUA. Here is a summary of the main achievements:

Forest restoration: In the GGV II area, 60 hectares of degraded areas were replanted between 2017-2019, with 120,000 native trees of 181 different Atlantic Forest species. Together with the 100 hectares planted with 180,000 trees by the GGV I project between 2013-2015, a total of 160 hectares have now been reforested with 300,000 saplings grown in our nursery from seeds collected on the reserve. Replanting these areas has created forest corridors between the remaining forest fragments, that are vital if biodiversity is to thrive and recover.

As part of the restoration scheme, growth and biomass counts in the previously planted GGV I area and the GGV II area were established. The GGV I area was monitored, concentrating efforts on weeding, leafcutter ant control, tree replanting and fertilizer soil enrichment. Monitoring across the whole 160 hectares planted provided the base on which to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration and allowed for carbon sequestration analysis of the GGV I area after four years since it was planted. REGUA’s rangers, as well as both agriculturalists and land owners (totalling 32 participants), were trained to implement forest restoration methodology.

Environmental education: As part of the environmental education strategy, a water quality monitoring protocol was implemented in the Guapi-Macacu watershed. 52 Cachoeiras de Macacu secondary school students were selected and trained to collect 300 water samples at four different sites along the Guapiaçu, Macacu and Boa Vista rivers (upstream and downstream of villages and towns). In addition, a very instructive publication, Methodology and Water Quality Monitoring Results, was produced.

School visitation programme: This programme aimed at strengthening visitation to the new Grande Vida educational trail. The first 400 metres of the trail have been adapted to host the physically handicapped visitors.

The GGV school visitation programme funded children’s transport to REGUA and the Sharing Nature environmental education approach was implemented for students (primary and secondary school levels) to experience proximity to nature. Over 4000 students visited REGUA between 2017-2019. The GGV team held two teacher training courses, which allowed teachers to make the best educational use of the Grande Vida trail. A trail guiding course was also organized for 22 participants which enabled them to acquire knowledge on Cachoeiras de Macacu’s sustainable use of its natural beauties.

At the end of December 2019 the Petrobras Socio-Environmental Program grant was finally signed, and in January 2020, the GGV project, now renamed the Guapiaçu Project, started its activities. We have another two very busy years ahead of us (2020-2022), continuing the forest restoration within the upper Guapiaçu watershed, and developing the environmental education activities within Cachoeiras de Macacu and the neighbouring Itaborai municipalities.

For further information please see the Guapiaçu Project website and Facebook page.

2019 Update

Dear Friends and Supporters of REGUA 

Yet another year has passed and Raquel and I, on behalf of everyone at the REGUA project, would like to share this update that is just full to the brim of encouraging news. 

The Guapiaçu Valley (© REGUA)

The mission statement of the project is the conservation of the Guapiaçu watershed achieved through the implementation of four principle programmes; protection; restoration; education and research. 

Land Purchase is a visceral part of REGUA’s protection programme and in 2019 REGUA purchased or (at the time of writing) is in the process of finalising the purchase of various parcels of land to integrate into the Reserve of 338.5 hectares/846.25 acres. This would not be possible without the continued generosity of our supporters. 

REGUA employs 10 rangers from the local community and their work consists of principally patrolling the forests along 45km of the reserve’s trail network. The aim of the patrolling is to show REGUA presence and discourage hunting.  Coming from the local community the rangers are able to share news and discuss any concerns which enables them to be part of the decisions made and work done here.  Sponsorship supports some of our rangers enabling us to increase our team as land purchase increases the size of the reserve.

Our Reforestation Team (© REGUA)

REGUA continues to reforest as part of its programme in habitat restoration. The project has now planted over 520,000 trees since 2005. Tree planting is not an easy task, but with support from many individuals, and grants from companies and supportive conservation organisations, REGUA has planted tough areas and results are heart-warming. Increasing the overall forest cover, reducing edge effect, and creating and strengthening forest corridors, which offer greater areas for biodiversity, are vital. 

Our education programme thrives with the out-reach programme to local schools meeting over 2,270 children. We have 19 enthusiastic young people in our young ranger programme and have met just under 200 school teachers and received 80 tutors on our teacher courses. All of which continues to spread our message of conservation and the value of the wonderful landscape and biodiversity in to the local communities.

Taking our education programme to local communities (© REGUA)

Over 2,000 individuals have participated in training courses and research work at REGUA and our reputation with major universities continues to grow. 

The results have led to protocols in tree monitoring established by the RJ Government; on-going experimental plots; long term monitoring plots to measure tree growth; carbon sequestration studies; seed exchange and hosting technical workshops at REGUA as well invitation to participate in seminars and congresses.

Our protection and increased continuous forest, made REGUA a suitable project to launch the tapir reintroduction programme, a fact which we feel is an clear endorsement of the work we are doing. The reintroduction project is run by the Rio de Janeiro University. REGUA currently has nine tapirs roaming in the nearby local forests. This attracts public attention and reflects the value of a safe nature reserve. Sadly things are not always straightforward and two casualties showed that bats, anaemia and infections are to be reckoned with.

Lowland Tapir reintroduction (© REGUA)

Tourism at REGUA has continued to increase as a result of its reputation spread by word of mouth, internet and social media promotion, report writing and reviews. The Lodge offers comfortable accommodation, and guiding helps to make for a pleasurable and productive time. The bird life continues to attract visitors and groups from around the globe, but similarly dragonfly, butterfly and amphibian groups are visiting. Rio is an international hub and makes the REGUA an easy place to visit being just under two hours from the airport with a remarkably preserved habitat. 

Our plans for the future are clear, we have to keep developing and promoting our work independently. REGUA wishes to expand and consolidate through land purchase and complementary programmes. Tourism continues to be an essential component of REGUA’s fund-raising.

The conservation principles and ethos has attracted political interest and with the aim of securing water resources, the Government has declared the Guapiaçu watershed as strategically important for conservation. 

Restoration in action (© REGUA)

Brazil continues to be a key area for global conservation, but it’s not an easy country to work in.  Located in a global “hotspot”, the Atlantic rainforest biome, located in an “Important Bird Area” (IBA) as defined by Birdlife International, REGUA is an “Outpost of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve”. 

Perhaps REGUA is not pristine habitat nor is it the home to some of the more charismatic species instantly recognised by the general public, but our main contribution is that we are repairing and organising damaged ecosystems. REGUA is showing that this different approach, will one day be vital for repairing tropical forests around the globe. 

Three RPPNs areas have been constituted and two more are waiting to be approved, taking us up to second position in the State list of protected private areas. Our conservation efforts are being recognised and they are a source of inspiration to people visiting anxious to see what the fuss is all about!

This year REGUA was able to put more land into protection, plant more trees, publish more science and receive more visitors. As a result we are
influencing public politics as to the regional importance of this Guapiaçu
watershed and encouraging others to follow us. 

We could not be prouder of our efforts. We would like to wish everyone a very Happy Xmas and a wonderful New year.

King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli

Here’s to a great year ahead – and hoping for more great sightings like the King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli in September 2019!


Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA Team 

 

Tree planting continues at REGUA!

Using traditional methods – Fransisco and his mule (© Nicholas Locke)

Our efforts in tree planting often seem staggering, but such is our ambition at REGUA. We see degraded land as a burden to the planet and certain of our argument – that there is no way to justify the destruction of tropical forests or even search for their sustainable use. Why? We do not know how they work as an ecosystem and it erases just too many life forms that depended on it. That cannot be responsibility!! Forests and the species that depend on it around the globe are suffering and at REGUA, we are trying to grow them back. Not so easy!! 

We are so fortunate to have friends, trustees, professors, students, volunteers, staff, community members and children that also share this view. They all want to help us help us understand how it works and help us to restore the areas devoid of forest.  

This hard work provides opportunities in labour for the local community but more importantly, they gain pride in creating a more beautiful place. Responsibility is shared and though there may be a minimum that see disrespect for the hard work their ancestors put into harnessing land, today their grandchildren understand that forests teem with life, biodiversity and of course, produce water. 

Miguel proving that working on steep slopes is possible! (© Nicholas Locke)

We have just capped half a million trees planted and we are very proud of our story.

We are especially proud of our ground team who made it possible!

What a difference a year makes!

It’s amazing how things can change in a year.   It’s just over a year since I was last at REGUA, and so much has happened.

Most noticeable to the lodge visitor is the tapir release project where  five Lowland or Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus Terrestris) have been released at the nearby wetlands, they often make the short trip up to the lodge garden.   It is surreal to see guests at night photographing moths at the moth wall, with a rather large mammal wandering past on its evening patrol, both seemingly unaware of the other.

Tapir in our restored wetland area (© Sue Healey)

The Tapir have managed to get food off the garden feeding stations so a suspended higher-level table has now been made.   The Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) were a little perplexed initially but soon mastered the art of a trapeze-style dash across the wires.   Some continue the more traditional approach – head first down a nearby tree.

The lodge orchid garden continues to develop, and with ferns and bromeliads amongst the rocks it makes a breeding area for house wren and feeding area for hummingbirds, the lantana and milkweed are doing well, again both favourites with the hummingbirds.

Other changes may not directly affect our lodge guests but they are making a huge difference to local visitors, including school visits, with a new car park by the conservation centre – hopefully no more buses getting stuck in the mud!   A new accessible trail has been created to Amanda’s hide, bringing opportunities where previously it would have been impossible for some people to enjoy the delights of the wetlands.

On the project itself, we reached the milestone figure of 500,000 trees planted and continue to plant – over 69,000 trees were planted in the 2017/18 planting season alone, thanks to the generous donations from many of our supporters.

Wouldn’t one million trees planted be a great figure to reach in the future!

With more key land areas coming under REGUA’s care, increased wildlife corridors are being protected and created in the Guapiaçu catchment area.   This will extend the range for many species of wildlife and enable them to strengthen in population, increase genetic diversity and increase the overall biodiversity of the valley.

Restored and reforested wetland area (© Sue Healey)

Our Rangers continue to patrol the forest, adding security and monitoring the wildlife, whilst there has been a huge reduction in hunting in the area since the project began, we cannot stop our vigilance even though there is very little evidence of hunting seen or heard now.

If you would like to support REGUA’s work, full details on how to make a donation are available from our “donate” page here.

If you would like to volunteer, please see our link here for full details.

Fiona and Colin’s volunteer diary – week 1

Fiona and Bruno weeding in the REGUA nursery (© Colin Daborn)

Volunteers Fiona and Colin Daborn report on their first week at REGUA.

Nearly at the end of our first week as general volunteers at REGUA and we are loving it so far. After a warm welcome from Nicholas, Raquel and the team on Monday (8th October) we were out with Jorge (REGUA Research Coordinator) on the lush “green trail” in search of butterflies. When we got back we had time to settle into our room in one of the volunteer houses, complete with well stocked bookshelves and a table perfect for writing up our sightings.

Tuesday saw us working in the plant nursery with Mauricio and Bruno planting seedlings and preparing new soil bags. Bruno turned out to be a fantastic Portuguese teacher too, so we expanded our vocabulary whilst weeding!

On Wednesday the sun was shining as we joined the hard-working ranger team led by Rui, planting out young trees to help reforest bare slopes. It was impressive to see the team workflow with each person having their own task – hoeing, preparing holes, adding compost, bringing the plants up to the steepest slopes in two baskets on the back of a mule, then passing the young trees across the slope so that the rest of the team could do the final stage of planting.

After a dramatic thunder and lightning storm, Thursday dawned wet and the air was filled with the sound of contented frogs! After a morning back in the nursery we joined the rest of the team for a short drive out to have lunch with one of the families who have a small holding adjoining REGUA land. Our host was so grateful to REGUA for protecting the land in the valley surrounding his farm that he wanted to provide a Thank You lunch. The table was laden with rice and beans, manioc, various salads, pasta, a local speciality of baked cod with boiled eggs and two meat dishes including one prepared in the blood of a chicken. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another mouthful, dessert appeared – homemade passion fruit mousse or Brazilian trifle! After lunch we joined Professor Carlos back in REGUA classroom for the weekly session of the Young Rangers. Colin shared a presentation on his work as a National Trust ranger in the UK and there were plenty of lively questions about the size of snakes in Dorset! (photo 3)

It has been a great opportunity so far to share our skills and experience with REGUA but also to learn a lot about our new environment from the team and the many visiting scientists. We’re looking forward to seeing what next week brings!

Follow Fiona and Colin’s adventures at REGUA on their blog.

Colin planting (© Fiona Daborn)

Colin presenting (© Fiona Daborn)

Tree Planting 2017/18

The REGUA nursery team composed of Barata, Mauricio, Diamoneli and forester Aline Damasceno successfully produced the 50,000 trees as part of the Petrobras Socioambiental  funded project, also referred to as Guapiaçu Grande Vida or GGV.

Planting over 100 species of native tree species is a good average and seeds are sourced in the nearby forests.

The annual planting season is between November and March taking advantage of the summer rains.  The year 2018 has been “La Ninha” providing us with the necessary rains and plant mortality has been very low.

Diamoneli, Aline, Mauricio and Barata (L-R) (© REGUA)

The area on which the trees were planted is the enormous “Pai velho” REGUA reserve hillside. Its steepness has required enormous effort by the team but we are happy to announce that we are close to ending the planting there.

However, it hasn’t ended yet, for REGUA wishes to plant a further 20,000 trees this season and by the end of the next planting season we will top our half a million tree mark!!

Well done team!

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)

Introducing the GGV II Team

GGV II Team (© Raquel Locke)

Introducing the Guapiaçu Grande Vida Team for their second project at REGUA.  Following the successful reforestation of 100 hectares of cattle pasture along the edge of the River Guapiaçu in 2013-15, the second project is now underway.

This time a 60 hectare plot is being planted, on steep and highly eroded land along the road on the way to our Waldenoor Trail.

From left to right, they are:
Patrick, Environmental Education Officer
Carol, Financial Administration Officer
Nathalie, Social Media Officer
Aline, Forest Restoration Officer
Tatiana, Environmental Education co-ordinator
Gabriela, GGV project co-ordinator
Lorena, Geographic Information Systems Officer
Carlos, Environmental Education Officer

Guapiaçu Grande Vida Project – Update

The latest news on our second GGV Project from REGUA’s Vice-President, Raquel Locke:

The much expected rain has finally arrived and the entire landscape has been relieved from a near two-month drought.

REGUA’s Nursery with trees ready to be planted (© Aline Damasceno de Azevedo)

The GGV Petrobras funded project aims at restoring a further 60 hectares of degraded land with native trees over a two-year period. (The first project restored 100 hectares).

On average, 1667 trees will be planted per hectare by a team of six Rangers who are very keen to start with their work.    An array of 100 native Atlantic Forest tree species will be planted in this area.    Tree matrices in REGUA´s forests provide the template for our planting of species.

The young trees are grown in REGUA’s nursery.   The seeds are carefully brought down from the forest by our nursery staff.   Once in the nursery, seeds are either stored or sown in seed beds according to their characteristics and demands.

It is interesting to note that some tree species need shade all through their time in the nursery, whilst other species need half or full exposure to sunlight.  Their pioneer, early secondary, late secondary and climax species characteristics dictate these requirements.

The rainy season heralds the start of our planting season, beginning in October and ending late March.

Degraded Hillside where the young trees will be planted (©Aline Damasceno de Azevedo)

Staff and tree saplings will be transported to the planting sites which are on average some six kilometres from REGUA´s Conservation Centre.

The much-improved road access to Pai Velho area in Areal vicinity has just been completed which should make the task more efficient.

Raquel Locke

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.

REGUA’s Trees are reaching for the Sky!

We are delighted to report that the donation from the Danish Travel Fund that led to the acquisition of Anderson’s property in 2014 has resulted in a dramatic change within the Matumbo Valley.

The highly degraded and eroded area is on the road towards the Waldenoor trail on the way to Matumbo.   Until last year cattle were being grazed there and it is amazing how quickly birds and insects come into land after planting.

REGUA planted 25,000 native trees on this 13 hectare site between November 2016 and January 2017 and the weather has been most favourable.

The trees are growing very well.   Thank you Danish Travel Fund for helping to acquire this strategically important area and to the World Land Trust through their “Plant a tree Fund” for financing the tree planting.

Pai Velho July 2017 (© Nicholas Locke)

Pai Velho November 2016 (© Nicholas Locke)

Thor’s Project – part 3

Thor has returned from the north of Brazil, and revisited REGUA and his cuttings in our nursery on his way home to Canada.

Marianeira cuttings (acnistus arborescens)

Talking to him about the progress of his project made interesting conversation.   He enjoyed the whole experience of being in Brazil, and making new friends at REGUA and found his time with us an excellent opportunity to learn about different techniques of tropical forestation.   From helping in the nursery, planting the seeds in prepared pots to planting the trees, Thor took on board the whole process.

He particularly enjoyed his time walking with Mauricio [head nurseryman] and Barata [forest ranger] in the forest, collecting seeds and trying to identify the myriad of  tree species.

As for his project – to experiment with taking tree cuttings rather than germinating seeds.   Thor has just re-checked his samples.  Although they were probably not take at the ideal time of year there were at least a dozen new plants from the Marianeira (acnistus arborescens) species  and a couple of Tabebuia cassinoides.

Thor plans to return at a different time of year and next time maybe use hormone rooting powder.    As he says

“REGUA and many other projects in the tropics are still having problems germinating some species of tree and if I try at a different time of year we may have more success.  

Thor with one of his successful cuttings. (© Sue Healey)

I also want to go and see other projects here in Brazil.   Before I come back however, I need to tackle identifying some of the tree species and they are overwhelming here.   I would recommend REGUA totally as an experience, with its peace and quiet and such welcoming people, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here.”

REGUA looks forward to Thor’s return.

 

Thor’s work continues

Thor Smestad is a Canadian forestry expert of many years experience.   He volunteered at REGUA with a brief to try to improve our plant propagation programme.   See our first news on Thor’s visit here.

Thor with his cuttings in the REGUA Nursery (© Andrew Proudfoot)

Many Mata Atlantica tree seeds germinate easily and only require to be collected from the forest, placed in a soil-filled sleeves, watered and sheltered from direct sun in the nursery. However, germination rates for some can be poor.    For trees from the fig family for example, success may be limited.    Perhaps Brazil nuts are the best illustration of this dilemma: fewer than 5% of planted seeds germinate.

The way ahead is to use cuttings of shoots dipped in rooting hormone and placed in soil.   In this way, rare plants, not found in fruit, and species with seeds of low viability can be restored to the new forest plantings here at REGUA.

Symbiotic micorrhizal fungi are another issue investigated in Thor’s project.   We do not know how central these fungi are to successful forest establishment and vigorous growth. By experimentally including/excluding forest floor debris (which will carry the fungal spores), the impact of micorrhiza may be assessed. Better information improves reafforestation outcomes and so there is understandably a lot of interest in Thor’s work.

Andrew Proudfoot
REGUA Volunteer

REGUA – the solution to land erosion!

Planting trees on degraded soils is never easy. Over time, the soil loses most of its nutrients, becomes compacted, and is very often too steep to even walk on. The land owners give up areas that cannot be mechanized and allow it to turn into poor quality pasture where it can be burned occasionally to keep it free from weeds. Soils lose the carbon granules that bind soil together and slowly micro-bacterial life drains out allowing heavy rain to start ugly gully erosion.

Raquel and André inspect the trees (© Nicholas Locke)

These are the soils that REGUA wants to return to forests before they become an ecological disaster zone, an eyesore and are also too expensive to retrieve. Owners are reticent to allow REGUA to convert tired uphill land to forest as they think their properties will lose value. The owners don’t want to sell the land as there is little else to buy with the money. However REGUA has experience and in its stubbornness gently inches forward to improve the Guapiaçu valley.

The hillside of the Protestant land is one that poses a challenge for it is currently in grass, very steep and already has some gullies formed by heavy rain.

Professor André Tavares Correa Dias of the Department of Ecosystem Ecology at Rio de Janeiro State University, is himself involved in restoring bauxite residual dumping grounds in Pará State visited us and we took him to see our challenges. He was very pleased with the results to date. Our trees are planted just before the rains – the best time to build a forest. We only hope the rains won’t bring the hill down before the trees have time to bind the soil!

Nicholas and André discuss the planting (© Raquel Locke)

Last year’s planting season was in November, and the mortality rate was quite acceptable given the factors, so we are hopeful that we will be able to establish these new forests at REGUA to the benefit of the biodiversity, its community and the valley’s overall ecological functionality.

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 Forest. 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. There are six individual Guarajuba trees in the Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro, 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.

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.