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.

Bromeliad Research

University student Juliana Leal is conducting a new experiment as part of her doctorate on bromeliads here at REGUA.

DSC00170
Juliana Leal

One thinks an epiphyte absorbs nutrients from their host but far from it, the roots of the bromeliads merely fix the plant to the branches, rocks or soil on which it lives.   Leaves of bromeliads are fixed at their base in a circular arrangement that trap rainwater and any material falling from above on which algae thrive.    Incoming sunlight powers the ecosystem, and aquatic organisms feed on algae in the bromeliad’s small pools, but ecologists are intrigued as to what is more important; the algae or the dead organic material falling into the watery habitat?    What maintains the flow of energy in an aquatic ecosystem, algae or the incoming organic material?

Juliana has set up a field of identical bromeliads at REGUA with different sunlight filters that allow varying levels of sunlight to reach the plant.   As algae numbers increase with sunlight she can vary the sunlight and measure the number of invertebrates feeding on algae to build a correlation.    But is there a minimal shade necessary?    We shall have the answers soon.

 

Collared Peccary skull found

Raquel went seed collecting recently with Barata and Mauricio as we are always on the lookout for seeds to plant in the REGUA nursery.

January is a good month to collect seeds and many species were laying on the forest floor.   High on the Orange trail, Barata suddenly came across a small den and upon closer inspection found the extraordinary remains of a Collared Peccary, Tayassu tajuco.

These are mainly fruit eaters and have been regularly caught on camera traps in large groups foraging for food amongst the vegetation.

It is quite a common species found across the Americas but the sight of the huge skull with its large canines is still most impressive.   Barata had never seen one before and Raquel has a good example to captivate our visitors’ attention.

Nicholas Locke

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

Boat-billed Herons nest at REGUA

Juvenile Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Adult Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, or arapapá in Portuguese, is one of the more mysterious bird species present at REGUA. Records over the years have been very few and far between, with only occasional sightings of roosting birds from the replanted forest around the wetland.

But for the last three years birds have been arriving at REGUA in the beginning of December and breeding has been suspected. Then on 2nd December Adilei found 12 nests at the wetland in the ten year old replanted forest close to Amanda’s Hide – the first confirmed nesting of Boat-billed Heron at REGUA.

The nests are made from twigs and lined with feathers and situated 6-8 m above ground, and at the time of writing the chicks are close to fledging.

Boat-billed Heron is widespread throughout Latin America and although numbers are thought to be declining, with such a large range they are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Being a nocturnal species, it is never that easy to see them. But many local birders have recently come to REGUA to photograph these birds and last year Francisco Falcon took this amazing photo of a displaying adult that became a huge success in the local birding world.

In 2012, we captured on camera trap, an adult bird feeding at night along one of the small forest streams that flows into the wetland. Watch the video »

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Micaela, Nicholas, Sue, Adilei, Rachel, Alcenir, Lee, Raquel & Tom in the Lodge garden July 2016 (© REGUA)

In spite of scandals of corruption and the scares of Zika, Brazil is working hard to improve it’s image and the Olympics and Paralympics showed the world that Brazil has much to offer the world community.

Conservation of the world’s natural heritage is a concern that involves us all and REGUA is an example of dedication and care for our corner of Brazil.

Results from 2016 show that with the support from our UK team, our staff on the ground and our many supporters worldwide, we can and have made a huge difference. Forests are growing where seedlings were planted and children are learning about the importance of conservation from their visits to REGUA. Researchers reveal Atlantic Forest secrets and our rangers ensure that REGUA’s forests are respected.

Our visitors continue to leave impressed with all that they see, and into this mini Eden, tapirs will be released next year, engaging more people and promoting our efforts. None of this would be possible without your support and therefore Raquel and I on behalf of REGUA’s team, dedicate this Christmas to you all!

Help us to keep up the good work and we will show you the changes that make REGUA a very special place.

Walking on the São José Trail

The São José trail wanders gently inside secondary forest at least 50 years old, where Bananas used to grow.   It has many sunlit spots and small clearings along the main trail, which really favours the presence on nice perching spots of a plethora of both forest and canopy dwellers like butterflies, shield-bugs, robber flies, moths, dragonflies, etc.

Catocyclotis aemulius
Catocyclotis aemulius (© Arnold Wijker)

Last year I was privileged to accompany a couple of two excellent ‘amateur’ nature photographers – Arnold and Sandra – with a keen interest in butterflies and birds for a walk in that trail.    We spent a lovely morning walking the trail butterfly watching and photographing from its beginning on the Brown Trail, all the way to the Rio do Gato and the water filter that belongs to the Kirin brewery and soft drink plant.

The highlight was the metalmark (Riodinidae). This family had its origin in South America, then expanded to the Old World Tropics and recolonised South America, where around 90% of existing species occur today.    The metalmark family has seen the most new species records for REGUA since the first survey which finished in 2009… and this time we came back with some amazing records:

  • Mesosemia meeda
    Mesosemia meeda (© Sandra Lamberts)

    Calospila parthaon – a species officially known from the Amazon basin only, so this is a new state record; seen on multiple days in the main trail.

  • Theope pedias – a new Três Picos Park and REGUA record, and might also be a new state record.   We found a small population near the water filter, with plenty of individuals flying lazily around the wet patches.
  • Mesosemia meeda (very rare, second ever record) and an unidentified female that tentatively belongs to this species, also bluish.
  • Catocyclotis aemulius (rare and at its southernmost distribution area)

Other more common species seen were: Juditha azan azan, Melanis unxia, Eurybia molochina and Leucochimona icare matatha.

Jorge Bizarro

With grateful thanks to Arnold Wijker and Sandra Lamberts.   More images can be found at :  https://Observation.org

For further reading:
REGUA and Tres Picos State Park preliminary list of butterflies:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/62403691/Soares-et-al.pdf

Paper about the Paleo-Biogeography and Phylogny of the Riodinidae butterfly family:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2015.08.006

Tapir Awareness Programme

As we progress the Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)  re-introduction programme, it is vital that the local communities are aware of the project and understand the value of Tapirs to the diversity of the forest.

Nicholas and Raquel are working with the Team on this vital issue – considering the possibility of the Tapirs advancing into local fields and feasting on manioc, corn and guava!

Prof. Maron Galliez and Joana Macedo with Young Rangers
Prof. Maron Galliez and Joana Macedo with Young Rangers (© REGUA)

Brazilian Tapirs have been extinct for the last 100 years in the state of Rio de Janeiro.   They can reach 300 kilos and their diet is based on fruits, leaves and shoots, making them very important seed dispersers and soil fertilizers.

It is not only the adults that are involved in this education programme however.    Professor Maron Galliez and Joana Macedo recently organized a session with the  Young Rangers.

After the Team explained what Tapir are and the reason for their re-introduction, there was a lively audience participation session which the Young Rangers thoroughly enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

Tree Planting begins!

Planting has resumed at REGUA for the 2016 season, we have started just before our summer rains in a grassland area in a property supported by the Danish Travel Fund.

Planting begins (© Nicholas Locke)

Although REGUA had only a World Land Trust grant to plant 5000 trees we decided to take action and plant a much larger area as a result of a grassland fire a month ago.    The scorched grass gave us a head start in preparing the planting of our trees.   REGUA had close to 80 native tree species ready to plant and then purchased a further 20 species from local INEA nursery to add to the tree diversity.

Extra hands were found in the local community and equipped with one petrol driven digger we have already planted half the area.   A road was also made to acccess the higher areas.    Tomorrow Famath University workshop students have requested the opportunity to plant 300 trees a offer we accepted with pleasure.

Replanting trees needs every ounce of help!

P.S since this article the sun has come out and the rains have stopped so our planting is on hold for a few days until the next rains come.

Great success for Miguel

Miguel Ferreira de Conceição is a young lad from the local community of Matumbo who has a passion for nature.

He comes from a humble background and is now 21 years old, but since joining the Young Ranger programme seven years ago, he found his desire for the future – wanting to work in tourism.

Professor Carlos with Miguel
Professor Carlos with Miguel (© Nicholas Locke)

REGUA’s resident teacher Professor Carlos has always been supportive and encouraged him, and a month ago Miguel participated in a test that offered opportunities for a professional “Park visitor guide” course organized by the State Government Institute (INEA).

We were all thrilled that of the 50 applicants, Miguel took third place; a testimony to the value and contribution of REGUA’s Young Ranger programme.

Miguel has started the course and is rightly proud of his achievements.   It is rewarding and very satisfying for us to see direct life-changing benefits that can reach deep into other people lives.

Miguel loves dragonflies and as a reward we presented REGUA publication  A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos so Miguel can brush up his knowledge of these special creatures and guide future guests wanting to see them.