We’re very pleased to present this report from Clinton Jenkins, Research Scholar at North Carolina State University and former doctoral student of Stuart Pimm, founder of Saving Species. Dr. Jenkins traveled to the site at Fazenda Dourada in August 2011, and brings us this report in his own words.
Fazenda Dourada update, August 2011
I have just returned from a visit to the Fazenda Dourada corridor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, SavingSpecies first project. There is much to update you on regarding the project, which has been a tremendous success and is a model for biodiversity conservation. The aim of the project was to restore and protect a migratory corridor between two large areas of Atlantic coastal rainforest in Brazil. Less than ten percent of the original forest remains, even less in the lowlands, so such corridors provide vital habitat for highly endangered species that are unique to this highly biodiverse area.
Restoration is progressing rapidly
First, I want to share with you our progress on restoration of the actual corridor. Originally, the Fazenda Dourada (= “Golden Farm” in Portuguese) was a mix of existing forest, steep deforested slopes, and some flat areas near a dirt road, all of which was grazed by cattle. Some of that land is naturally growing back into forest, especially the areas close to existing forest. Some areas have slopes of nearly 45 degrees and degraded soils, and so will be slower to recover. Other areas were severely degraded and in need of recovery. Active reforestation began in September 2008, almost exactly three years ago.
A key aspect of the restoration was to include local people, so our partners encouraged local school children to participate in tree planting. And today, those first seedlings planted by the children in 2008 are almost six feet (2 meters) tall! As you can see from the “before and after” photos, the whole corridor is quickly returning to forest…
Essentially all of the corridor is now either regrowing forest naturally or has had trees planted. The Golden Lion Tamarin Association and União Biological Reserve have been using around forty species of trees. We used both pioneer species and later succession species. The aim was to mimic natural succession to restore a functioning forest as quickly as possible. My observation is that succession is proceeding rapidly. More pictures can be found online in the web album here.
Plans to expand the reserve
The next major development is that there are plans to expand the União Biological Reserve to nearly three times its original size. The expansion will come mainly by adding the large forested area to the west of the existing reserve, the very forest to which the corridor connects. This is the dream result for this project! When complete, the expanded reserve will include most of the lowland forest in the area as well as extensive areas of medium elevation forest. All of these areas will be connected. The map below shows the original boundaries of the reserve (yellow), the expansion due to Fazenda Dourada (green), and the proposed future boundaries (red). We are optimistic for the plan to succeed, but success is not guaranteed just yet. According to Whitson Costa Jr., the director of União Biological Reserve, it may take another year for the expansion to be approved at the Federal level, but he was confident.
Defending the reserve against highway expansion
In less happy news… There is a plan to expand the BR101 highway that crosses through União reserve to four lanes. In terms of transportation, everyone I talked to agreed that this was necessary. The existing highway is beyond capacity and very dangerous. One option being pursued is to remove the section of the highway currently inside the reserve and rebuild it outside the reserve. Thus, the highway could be expanded, but its overall impact on the reserve would be reduced. The highway expansion is a gradual process. It will proceeding in three phases, the third of which includes União and might not occur until 2016. We will continue to monitor the situation.
Removing non-native trees
There continues to be a small part of União reserve that has eucalyptus trees, planted before the area became a biological reserve. No apparent progress has been made on removing those trees. The reasons are many and include rules like, “you cannot cut trees inside a biological reserve”, and there seems to be no exception for trees that are not native.
Will the Golden Lion Tamarin be the 2016 Olympic Games mascot?
The Golden Lion Tamarin is being proposed as the mascot for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Clearly, that could be a grand opportunity for conservation in the region. We are working on ways to lobby the Olympics organizers to use the Golden Lion Tamarin as the Games mascot.
About Clinton Jenkins
Clinton Jenkins is a Research Scholar in the Biology Department of North Carolina State University and a Visiting Scholar at Duke University. He earned his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee under the advisement of Dr. Stuart Pimm. Clinton also teaches courses in Conservation GIS and Advanced Spatial Analysis at the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas in Nazaré Paulista, Brazil, one of Brazil’s premier conservation organizations.