The Whitley Fund for Nature's Whitley Awards honour outstanding biodiversity conservation leaders in developing countries around the world. This year Gabriela Cabral Rezende, coordinator of the Black Lion Tamarin Conservation Programme at IPE and WeForest’s Wildlife Corridors project in Brazil, is one of them! The prize will allow the programme to grow even more corridors to connect all the populations of black lion tamarins in the region. These small relatives of the marmoset are only found in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, and are listed as endangered. The restoration of the forests here uses more than 100 tree species that we know the animals use for food.
A view of one of the forest corridors (Photo: IPE)
Since 2014, a total of 862 hectares - 1034 football fields - has been restored using a large variety of species and different restoration methods. To date, over 125 different tree species, including 100 native ones, are transforming these landscapes through ANR (Assisted Natural Regeneration), which accelerates the natural recovery of degraded forest areas through the protection and maintenance of young trees that sprout after disturbances such as fire or cattle grazing. Another technique is framework planting, which is used to recover highly degraded areas where natural regeneration is limited. A high-density planting of around 100 different species are chosen for characteristics such as fast growth, or because they are a food source for wildlife.
Eight nurseries provide seedlings for the project. They are owned and managed by local communities of settlers and small farmers, and a total of 11 women and 16 men are employed.
A great carbon sink
The total restoration area to date can expect to sequester 273,254t CO2 over 30 years, assuming there’s no disturbance from fires. That’s equivalent to the carbon footprint of more than 1,000 European citizens for each and every one of those 30 years.
This project began in 2014 and since then your support has:
Restored and protected 862ha that will become wildlife corridors connecting remaining patches of forests. That’s over 1,000 football pitches and almost 1.8 million trees being regenerated!
Regenerated over 125 species of tree
Supported local community nurseries providing employment
Benefited over 840 families involved in: nurseries, planting and replanting, fencing, transportation, maintenance, weeding, training, monitoring, environmental education as well as scientific surveys.
Thank you for all your support!
At least 100 native species are planted across our restoration sites and we aim for at least 40 native species in each restoration site. 2018 monitoring data shows over 125 species present in the total area and the additional non-planted species are from natural regeneration.
This cactus is a spontaneous regeneration in our planting site - local nurseries didn't produce this species and we didn't plant it! It indicates that animals who consume this species' edible fruits have been visiting. This item was probably pollinated by bats, who are attracted by the strong-smelling white flowers.
The first step to recovering forests is preventing external degradation (i.e. invasive grasses, fire and cattle that could eat the young seedlings) from hindering tree development. Fencing has been regarded as essential when restoring forests surrounded by pastures and effectively keeps cattle away from seedlings.
However, cattle can also be useful during the restoration process as they eat and therefore suppress invasive grasses. Like with many things, the dose makes the poison, or – in this case – the remedy. Practitioners have been increasingly testing controlled cattle release on restoration areas. The fact that cattle actually prefer the grasses to native seedlings, helps their case.
In the near future, we might find the perfect mix of using and excluding cattle for forest restoration.
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.
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