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