January 31st, “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”.
(RPPN Portuguese acronym) Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest is basically tropical forest that stretches 20 degrees of latitude hugging South America’s continental rim. From seashore and beach vegetation to lofty mountain peaks, this biome is a mixture of endless habitats with unique and rich biodiversity that contributes to one of the highest rates of endemism on the planet. However, it is also the region of historical occupation and this has made this region a global conservation “hotspot”, and it needs all the help it can get!
Três Picos State Park and adjacent protected areas form the largest remnant of Atlantic Forest in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is in this area that the NGO Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) is located. REGUA’s mission is the protection of the Guapiaçu catchment and one effective tool for long term conservation is the creation of “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”, or simply “RPPN” of a property’s forested area. REGUA applies to the RJ State environmental agency INEA, requesting areas be officially registered as RPPN.
REGUA has established 5 RPPNs adjacent to the Park’s perimeter, totaling 700 hectares and REGUA wants more!. Activities such as environmental education, scientific research and visitation can occur with the support of REGUA´s staff.
RPPN offers protection for biodiversity and defines the land use of areas outside existing parks, both important aspects for future regional planning. Any farmer with forests in their property can effectively protect them and we hope that more land owners rally to having a RPPN!
Today we celebrate the “RPPN” day and we wish all the success to the owners and congratulate the authorities INEA and ICMBIO for actively participating and supporting this process.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
We are very pleased to announce that the formal documents including Geo-referenced maps have been handed to the INEA (RJ State Institute of the Environment) for validation.
The papers were presented as part of the process to guarantee the long term protection for REGUA’s forests and biodiversity.
REGUA already has three RPPN’s areas totalling 367 hectares and these two extra reserve parcels will more than double the area under this permanent protection. Short of giving the land to make a National Park, Private Reserve (RPPN) status is the best tool for long term conservation, and offers donors the possibility of acquiring land and guaranteeing its permanent protection.
Under full protection status, only activities in research, tourism and education are permitted. The effect in planning and transparency raises REGUA’s profile and the ambition to become the largest RPPN owner in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
One of the conditions to create RPPN is that the property is fully forested, and REGUA’s reforestation programme is currently completing two projects that will enable REGUA to become the second largest RPPN owner in the state by next year.
On August 24th, Regua hosted the Inaugural RPPN(*) or “Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural” Scientific Seminar in Rio de Janeiro state.
INEA – Rio de Janeiro State Environmental Agency – encourages land owners to create their own private reserves which are officially recognized by the state government. RPPN status allows no direct use of the land but allows activities such as environmental education, sustainable tourism and scientific research to be carried out. Much of REGUA’s land has been granted RPPN status and three new areas were finalised last August.
There were over 100 participants attending the event that started in the morning and continued until the evening.
Studies on forest ecology, flora and fauna inventories were presented to a very interested audience.
Land owners, university professors, undergraduates, post graduates, state and municipal authorities enjoyed this seminar which enriched everyone´s knowledge on the Atlantic Forest.
*The nearest English translation would be Private Natural Heritage Reserve
REGUA was delighted to attend a presentation in Rio recently for three more areas of the Reserve to be granted RPPN status.
Presenting 18 awards to various land owners were André Correâ, Rio de Janeiro State Secretary for the Environment and Paul Schiavo, Director of Biodiversity for the State Institute of the Environment (INEA).
The 18 new certificates cover around 900 hectares, bringing the total number of RPPN protected areas to 78 and a total area of 11,000 hectares. They are located in 12 local authorities across the State and are contributing to the preservation of important fragments of Atlantic Forest.
André Correâ acknowledged that the owners of the 78 RPPN areas had achieved their work without support and congratulated them saying: “The most ancient civilisations said that the life is worthwhile when your son is born, you plant a tree and write a book. You are going there, are contributing with your legacy, with much more than a tree, and who knows that these RPPNs will not serve as inspiration for a book.”
He added that the State Environment Agency want to …. ” build a policy of tourist attractions. Let’s build a sustainable tourism programme, ecotourism, for RPPNs. Another important issue is how to trade in the stock of carbon held in these preserved trees. This may become attractive to make a RPPN not only by the legitimate gesture of wanting to preserve the heritage”
Paul Schiavo added “The creation of private reserves means that society is moving towards managing to participate in the day to day control of areas fundamental to guarantee life. Many of these private reserves are the major water sources in a region. We will increasingly encourage, facilitate the creation, so that those gaps that the state does not fill is complete by individuals“
Their words totally confirm REGUA’s successful model for sustainable ecotourism supporting the mission of the long-term conservation of the forests of the upper Guapiaçu river basin.
REGUA has just received a grant from the Brazilian charity Aliança para a Conservação da Mata Atlântica (Alliance for the Conservation of the Atlantic Forest), to create the first RPPN (Private Natural Heritage Reserve) in the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu. The alliance is a fusion between Conservation International-Brazil, SOS Mata Atlântica and The Nature Conservancy and aims to stimulate landowners into setting aside their forested land throughout Brazil. The RPPN status is a recognized conservation unit and this act is written into their legal titles in a permanent manner. Many environmentally responsible landowners with a deep rooted passion for conservation find this mechanism a way to protect their land and ensure its safety for the future. The 350 hectares at REGUA will act as a buffer to the Três Picos State Park and show local landowners REGUA’s commitment to the environment. In a day and age where REGUA is setting standards in conservation practices, this has been particularly important.