Category Archives: Tree planting

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.

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.

Tree Planting in Cachoeiras de Macacu

Pope Francis is very popular in Cachoeiras de Macacu the nearest town to REGUA.   The Catholic Church wanted to celebrate his recent encyclical on nature by planting 1,000 trees  in Cachoeiras de Macacu’s Municipal Park located at the entrance of the town.

Tree Planting in Cachoeiras de Macacu
Tree Planting in Cachoeiras de Macacu Park (© Nicholas Locke)

REGUA had seedlings available and offered them to the Park.  The excited tree planters appeared promptly at 10.00 am and after a brief thank you sermon, everyone walked to the area to plant their trees.    Children and their families participated in the event and within 90 minutes the work was done.

This was a great job and the afternoon rain came to bathe the trees. The Forest Police also celebrated the act by releasing some cage birds and the children were delighted making further plans to reopen the overgrown paths in the Park.

Releasing caged birds in Cachoeiras
Releasing Caged birds (© Nicholas Locke)

Where there is a will there is a way !