In the 2013/14 growing season 80,000 trees will be planted in 131 acres (53 hectares) at Reserva Ecologica de Guapi Assu (REGUA) in the Atlantic Rainforest – breaking all previous annual tree planting records for the reserve.
Since 1987, 175,000 native trees have been planted at REGUA by rangers and volunteers, which is an enormous achievement. “This work is seen as the single most important contribution to conservation at REGUA and one that is increasingly making the project and its team proud of the results,” explains Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s Director.
World Land Trust (WLT) provided support for tree planting at REGUA from 2004 until 2012. More recently WLT has funded members of REGUA’s team of rangers, including Antonio Teixeira Nunes, through the Keepers of the Wild programme.
Reforestation is key to reconnecting areas of forest that were fragmented before the reserve was created, thereby providing more wild habitat for animals and birds. “The scale of the task means that reforestation is a serious business for rangers on the reserve and we are very grateful to WLT and its donors for their support,” said Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s Director.
In Brazil summer starts in November, and the season provides an important opportunity for native tree planting.
All the varieties of trees that are planted are found in the nearby forests, but tree seed production in the wild is far from constant. There are more than 600 different species of trees in the Atlantic forest, of which 150 different species are used for reforestation work. They all produce seeds throughout the year, according to their own reproductive cycle, which depends entirely on the past rainfall.
Take a walk through the reserve in summer and you’ll see thousands of seedlings sprouting from the forest floor but there is not enough space, light or nutrients for them all to grow to maturity. The seedlings are susceptible to fungal and insects attacks and very few, perhaps only a handful, grow to even a couple of metres in height. In fact these saplings wait many years until an adult tree falls and only then will they put on a growth spurt to fill the space and soak up the sunlight, their only source of energy.
Planting native trees
But at REGUA, in their daily work the experienced rangers collect seeds of all native species, which have been shed from the towering canopy of tall trees (just a few hundred of each species at the very most).
(Nicholas Locke, Director, REGUA)
The seeds are later sown in the nursery. Once the seeds have germinated, the seedlings are individually planted into small plastic bags filled with a substrate of clay, compost and fertiliser, which is prepared in the nursery.
They are then placed in a shade house where they grow for a couple of months. Thereafter they are placed outdoors in full sunlight until they reach between knee and waist height.
Finally they are transferred to the field, stripped of their plastic casing and block planted in holes especially dug for the occasion in anticipation of the summer rains in November or December. The usually rainy weather and the sunlight stimulate their growth and once they get their roots into the soil they really get going. This is an especially busy period for the rangers and volunteers who get involved in the activity.
If you are interested in becoming a REGUA volunteer to help plant trees in the Atlantic Rainforest then please complete REGUA’s volunteer application form and email it to Rachel Walls, Volunteer Co-ordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.