The relationship between forests, water and climate is complicated. To understand how forest restoration impacts water and climate processes, WeForest is participating in a new flux tower experiment, led by ESALQ from the University of Sao Paulo, and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). The tower is being built in the middle of a 30-hectare experimental restoration forest in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, located in the Sao Paulo state.
Flux towers measure the exchange of water, energy, and carbon (CO2) between forests and the atmosphere, allowing scientists to make predictions of how forests will respond to a changing climate and how a land-use change like deforestation will impact global climate change.
Linking tree diversity to ecosystem functioning
The experiment will analyze the relationship between tree diversity and ecosystem functioning. The effects of tree species composition, drought and soil fertility on water and carbon cycles will be studied over the course of several years. Measuring water and carbon fluxes over the entire ‘life history’ of a growing forest - from the bare ground before planting to a mature forest - will help to understand the role of tree species diversity on ecosystem water and carbon cycles. This aids us to discover which species of trees and which combinations of species could maximize the benefits for water and carbon sequestration and how each species will respond to increasingly frequent drought events due to climate change.
Understanding the ecological effects of our restoration work
The resulting data will help us understand carbon and water cycles in WeForest’s restoration sites and other restored areas of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. It will allow improvement of our restoration and management techniques which will maximize the benefits for water and climate.
With our camera traps in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil we know for sure that different kinds of endangered animals are returning to the area.
For example the ´Potoo´ (Nyctibius griseus). This nocturnal bird feeds on insects during the night. During the day she looks like a tree trunk to avoid being seen, and it is therefore that the local names for the Potoo can be translated as ´the mother of the moon´ and ´ghost bird´.
The Potoo prefers to feed and rest on younger and more open forests where it can move around more easily, and can therefore be seen a lot in our tree plantings and naturally-regenerating forests.
Another animal that has recently been spotted by our camera traps in the "Santa Monica Reserve", surrounding the Morro do Diabo State Park, is the Black Jaguar (Panthera onca. Black jaguars belong to the same species as the "regular" jaguar. It is estimated that around 20% of the jaguars are black jaguars.
The jaguar is listed as near threatened by the IUCN and has become locally extinct and critically endangered in some areas and habitat loss and fragmentation are to blame. However, seeing them in the camera traps means that small sub-populations are surviving, giving us all the reason to remain optimistic and to continue, with your support, restoring forests in the Atlantic forest in Brazil and help more species return to their natural habitat.
Did you know that Brazil has a law, The Brazilian Forest Code, that requires that some landowners have 20% of their lands covered by forests. Nowadays, 21 million hectares officially fall under this law, and if they were actually all restored, an estimated 9 gigatons of CO2 would be sequestered from the atmosphere. This equals the total emissions from China over the entire last year!
The thought behind this law is that: even though riverbeds, freshwater springs and in general, ecologically sensitive areas are located within someone´s private land and this person is ´allowed´ to use it, the state considers them property of the state and of the society and therefore this land area deserves to be protected or restored!
Our restoration projects in Brazil are working to tie these individual pieces of land together, and this way create ´forest corridors', which will make it easier for wildlife to roam around.
Read more about the Brazilian Forest Code in this blog
Teaching a weekend course on Tropical Forest Restoration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in exchange for trees being planted for WeForest’s Atlantic Forest Project, Ricardo Cesar, WeForest’s Brazil Country Representative, does not shy away from dedicating his free time to engage with over 20 graduate and undergraduate students, spark lively discussions and plant more trees!
The students had backgrounds in, amongst others, Environmental Engineering, Agronomy, Biology and even Economics and theoretical discussions on the history, practice and legislation of ecological restoration in Brazil then turned into real practical exercises.
Ricardo: ´In one of the exercises I simulated that I was a landowner. The students then had to propose a plan to improve the productivity and ecological benefits of my land. It was very constructive since we could see the conflict of views between students and landowners, and negotiate trade-offs. Besides being fun, it was the closest that many of them had ever been to talking with a ´real´ small farmer´.
Finally, the course ended by practicing using open-licence geoprocessing software to map areas required for restoration by the Brazilian law.
With this, Ricardo shows us that educating the local community literally helps plant trees.
Your support is protecting the endangered Black Lion Tamarin
The Brazilian Atlantic forest is one of the most biodiverse spots in the world, yet due to severe habitat destruction many species are under threat of extinction. The Black Lion Tamarin is one of such species: its population has been declining drastically and today only about 1500 individuals remain in the Pontal Do Panarapanema region. This is where you make a difference: thanks to your support, several tree wildlife corridors have been planted. These connect remaining forest areas in the region and allow greater movement of individuals. Not only does this increase food security, the Tamarin’s chance of finding a suitable partner does too.
Joining the PACT for a bigger IMPACT
In April 2018, WeForest joined a coalition of more than 270 companies, public agencies, research centers and NGOs called the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact. With more than 2 million hectares deforested in the last decade, the Atlantic Forest is highly threatened. The Pact aims to restore 15 million hectares of the Atlantic Forest by 2050.WeForest’s forest landscape restoration activities directly contribute to achieving the goal. WeForest also shares within the Pact its research findings and collaborates with other researchers on analysing data on forest growth to identify areas with high potential for forest landscape restoration.
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