Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bromeliad research

Camille in the field (© Nicholas Locke)

Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity of extreme climatic events such as severe droughts.  Little is known on how freshwater ecosystems respond to severe droughts in the neotropics.   Terrestrial organic matter, primarily derived from plant litter, represents an important food resource in these nutrient limited freshwater ecosystems.

The PhD project currently being undertaken by Camille Bonhomme from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) wants to investigate the effects of quantity of terrestrial matter subsidies on the response of the recipient aquatic communities to drought stress.

Camille will use tank bromeliads along with their associated aquatic invertebrates as model ecosystems. Tank bromeliads are neotropical plants. Their interlocking leaves form rosettes that collect rainwater and dead leaves from the overhanging trees, creating an aquatic habitat for various species of invertebrates.  

Bromeliad communities (© Nicholas Locke)

In the field experiment, bromeliads will receive either few or high quantities of leaf litter inputs. After a natural colonisation and equilibration period, the diversity and composition of the aquatic invertebrate community that colonised the bromeliads will be assessed and compared to the quantity of subsidised resources.   The bromeliad micro-ecosystems will then be submitted to a drying and rewetting event, to assess their resistance and resilience.

Camille hopes to show firstly that the variations in leaf litter provision will determine the composition and quality of the colonisation (including number of species, food chain length and overall community composition).

Secondly, that the leaf litter quantity will affect the stability of the community submitted to drought, expecting the higher provision of leaf litter to give greater support, by offering a “buffering” effect to the community. It is hoped to show that leaf litter will provide short term refuges for invertebrates and be more attractive for recolonisation after the drought.

We look forward to seeing the result of Camille’s research.

UNEES conference at REGUA

UNEES conference at REGUA
UNEES conference at REGUA (© Fiona Daborn)

From 22-24 October REGUA hosted delegates from Brazil, Mozambique and Germany for the UNEES conference (University meets Private Sector for Sustainability).

The project, led by Prof. Dr Leandro Fontoura of the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro links the teaching and research activities of the three participating universities with sustainable actors from the private sector, creating a knowledge transfer channel in the field of rural development (in particular issues such as natural resource degradation and food insecurity).

The university partners involved are:

  • the “Centre for Rural Development” of the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany;
  • the MA programme “Rural development and Development Management” at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique;
  • the MA programme “Sustainable Development Practice” at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFRRJ).

How does it work?

Universities contribute action and development research to help solve the problems encountered by businesses. Businesses offer internships to students on Rural Development courses to enable students to help solve challenges and understand what the private sector needs. Universities improve their courses by incorporating practical examples from their business partners and businesses contribute guest lectures as appropriate.

In Day 1 of the workshop at REGUA we heard from a range of existing partners. First up was Robson of the Comunidade Rural do Bonfim, (about 3000 people) near Petropolis in Brazil. In 1984 the Brazilian government made the whole area, including their land, into a national park, meaning that traditional activities of farming were no longer permitted. They are in the process of transitioning to be able to offer Eco Tourism to visitors and they have students from UFRRJ on placement with them to help research and plan.

Next up was Hanna from Frankenforder Forschungsgesellschaft in Berlin, a private research company working in the area of agriculture and nutrition. Hannah had recently hosted an intern from UFRRJ (Brazil) to help solve various business challenges. For example, the intern helped a local asparagus company turn the parts of the asparagus that weren’t eaten into something useful, for instance a form of packaging, or a grain that could be added to bread to increase the nutritional value.

Raquel presenting at the UNEES conference (© Fiona Daborn)

The Mozambique team, made up of professors from a leading university in the country, contributed a very interesting presentation on their partnership with a National Park, a bank and a local solar power business.

Potential new partners also had their opportunity to present – Katie Weintraub working at the Sinal do Vale regeneration centre near to Rio is a current student on the MA in “Sustainable Development Practice” at UFRRJ. She showed a great video showcasing their hospitality services and sustainability projects around forest restoration, organic agriculture, and community development. One highlight was a bioconstruction project where local youth and international architects worked together to create a “marquee” space to host events (and bring in income to help the centre become self-supporting) – the final product was an amazing octagonal space made with recycled toothpaste tubes, a material which had the added benefit of keeping the interior cool.

The final slot went to Francine from “Articulacao entre chefs e Agricultre” using the CSA method – Comunidade que sustenta a Agricultura. Francine, originally a chef, set up the business to ensure that local producers got a good price for their crops and that food was used by restaurants as close as possible to where it was grown for maximum freshness and sustainability.

In between sessions, the delegates enjoyed exploring the grounds at REGUA and catching some good sightings of both Brazilian Tapir and Capybara!

Scaled Antbird

Scaled Antbird  ( (Drymophila squamata) is a superb Atlantic Rainforest endemic species that can be seen along most mid elevation trails at REGUA making its plaintive call and hopping from branch to branch in the low vegetation.

In spite of its the male having monochrome colours the visual effect it creates as it hops in the undergrowth is startling, indeed the female, who shares similar patterning, but with dark brown buff and hints of cinnamon is equally attractive.   They can often be found feeding in pairs or small family groups as they search for insects and spiders in the forest.

Scaled Antbird (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Our guests can be sure to gasp in appreciation – REGUA bird guide Adilie Carvalho da Cunha recently took this photograph.

Although its status is classed of ‘least concern’ as it is fairly common throughout its range, having protected areas such as REGUA are vital to ensure its continued healthy population.

We shall keep our eyes on them!!

Moustached Wren

Moustached Wren (© Adilei Carvalho de Cunha)

The Moustached Wren (Pheugopedius genibarbis) is quite a common Troglodyte here at REGUA especially around the wetlands.    A largish bird with unmistakeable black and white facial stripes, rufousy coloured back and wings, creamy under parts and the characteristic banded tail, it can be found in low undergrowth with its musical chirp feeding on insects.

Adilei attracted this male out of the brush and they had their moment of recognition, a brief duet and off he was looking for his insects.

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

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.

Bare-throated Bellbird

Ever wonder what the loudest bird on Earth is?  The outrageous Bare-throated Bellbird (Procnias nudicollis) is certainly a top contender!    While hiking up the Green Trail here at REGUA, singing males can be heard from over a kilometre away.

The call each male belts from his featherless blue-skinned throat sounds like a mallet striking an iron pipe, and echoes down the valley in rhythmic series.    As we climb higher up the mountain trail, the boinks and bonks of competing males get louder and louder, but we can often only catch glimpses of them perched high in treetops.

Today, volunteer bird guide Bobby found our lucky visitor group, front row seats to an ear-splitting performance by a young male singing close beneath the canopy.   Bare-throated Bellbirds are endemic to the Atlantic Forest, found nowhere else on Earth.  These large, fruit-loving passerines perform crucial seed dispersing services for many lowland and montane trees. Unfortunately, drastic logging of the Atlantic Forest for development, combined with illegal poaching for the caged-bird trade, has led to declining populations of this spectacular species and a Vulnerable designation by IUCN.    But thanks to REGUA, the forest home of these contending males along the Green Trail is safe into the future.    And they can return the favor by dispersing their favorite fruit trees throughout the reserve, helping the forest to grow!

Kaitlin,
Volunteer bird guide.

Laudato si/Care for the Common Home

REGUA attended the second International Congress “Laudato si and large cities” organized by the Antonio Gaudi Foundation in Barcelona.   Pope Francis’s triumphal encyclical “Laudato si” or “Care for the Common Home” published in 2015 with the support of 1,000 scientists is, according to many, the greatest Manifesto on environmental concerns regarding planet Earth.

Laudato Si (© Nicholas Locke)

It is an appeal for reflections and dialogue to every person on how we are shaping our world.

In this second Congress, guest speakers presented their views and experiences on key issues facing an increasingly burgeoning population of which 80% of us live in cities.   The topics continue to be of great relevance; water supply, atmospheric pollution and waste management.    The issues are common around the world but the consequences are increasingly dramatic. The four day Congress showed that many share preoccupations and provided glimpses of successful solutions.

Our delegates returned to REGUA with renewed enthusiasm and commitment to continue the work already started.

Paraty Literary Festival founder visits REGUA

World Land Trust/UK Founder and acting Chief Executive, John Burton informed us a week ago that Liz Calder wished to visit, so you can imagine how delighted we were to receive her together with her son Toby and partner Gislane.

Liz is well known in Brazil as being responsible for establishing the Paraty Literary Festival (FLIP).   It all started when she and her husband came to work for Rolls Royce in the 1960’s and she fell in love with this country.

Liz Calder with Raquel and Nicholas Locke (© Toby Calder)

At the time Paraty, the colonial gold route town, could only be reached by sea but when Liz finally visited, she recognized its potential as an international venue.   Many literary celebrities have passed through Paraty and this year marked its 15th anniversary.

Based on this global success, Liz has decided to take FLIP to the UK and this year an Arts Festival named FLIPSIDE will be held between 6th and 8th October at Snape Maltings  in Suffolk, UK.

The REGUA video narrated by Michael Palin, will be shown to the public and we hope this contributes to generate awareness on our work here within the same forests that extend to shape that town called Paraty!

Black-legged Dacnis

Black-legged Dacnis (Dacnis nigripes) is considered a threatened species on the IUCN red list, but it can still be found in gregarious groups on the Reserve feeding on Trema micrantha fruit.

Just a few years ago REGUA started planting forests on the lowland and the presence of this species signalled that our planting was successful.

Black-legged Dacnis is sparsely recorded along coastal Brazil and found generally in primary and good secondary forest feeding in mixed flocks.

Black-legged Dacnis (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The male might be easily confused with Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana) which has pink legs, but the female is very different, and therefore easy to tell apart.

Adilei has even found both varieties feeding together in high altitude forests.  As breeding takes place between October and February, their presence in May on the lowlands suggests they are content to stay, so we shall be looking after them and checking their behaviour.