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Restoring forests and ecosystem services in the Amazon

Providing technical support for community-based agroforestry and ecological restoration in the southern Brazilian Amazon

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William Milliken/RBG Kew

Forest cleared for cattle pasture in Mato Grosso

This new project, beginning in October 2011, aims to draw on new knowledge and local expertise to promote habitat restoration and long-term conservation of Amazonian forest biodiversity and ecosystem services by capacity building and training local communities to reintroduce appropriate native species to degraded areas and establish agroforestry systems in the Cristalino region of Mato Grosso, Brazil. This will include the development of infrastructure and technical capacity to establish restoration/ agroforestry trials for long-term monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Background

The project region, in northern Mato Grosso, lies on the ‘arc of deforestation’ in the southern Amazon and is recognized as a priority for conservation. Trends indicate that cattle-ranching and agriculture will expand towards the central-northern states of the Brazilian Amazon. Forest restoration is a priority for the region, where large areas have been cleared by agriculture or logging. Even within protected areas, there are substantial areas of degraded pasture land. Restoration of forests in this context requires engagement with local community needs and integration with the development of agroforestry systems.

Until recently there was little information on local vegetation, making science-based restoration challenging. On completion of a recent project (Programa Flora Cristalino), however, we now have a detailed plant inventory for the region and data on the natural composition of major vegetation types.

Project outline

This project will draw on this new knowledge, on the technical expertise of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project and on local expertise to develop and promote methodologies, initiatives, incentives and infrastructure for habitat restoration.

The principal Brazilian partner, Instituto Ouro Verde (IOV), is already engaged in the development of agroforestry/restoration programmes in the region, and is working with the Rede do Portal da Amazônia seed networks. This involves agricultural smallholders and indigenous people in the collection of native forest seeds for planting in their communities and for commercial sale, providing valuable additional family income.

For example, the Rede do Portal da Amazônia includes 222 registered cololectors, 7 municipalities and 10 ‘Seed Houses’. In 2010 it collected approximately 10 tonnes of forest seeds of 150 species. These were used for the restoration of over 700 hectares of degraded land in northern Mato Grosso. The project will work two groups currently lacking infrastructural capacity: the Terena (Iriri Indigenous Area, Municipality of Matupá) and agriculturalists in the União do Norte district, Municipality of Peixoto de Azevedo. Borader technical capacity building among the seed networks will be conducted through a workshop with specialist input from Kew, specifically to address identified problems with collection, storage and management of key species.

IOV, through the Sementes do Portal project and with support from various social organisations in northern Mato Grosso, is installing agroforestry systems in areas of domestic-scale agriculture. In 2010 approximately 350 hectares were installed using seeds collected by the Seed Networks. Principal costs associated with these relate to seed collection, as the other costs (fencing, planting) are met by the landowner.

The need for a systematic experimental approach, accompanied by standard monitoring procesures, has been identified. The project will address this through the implementation of 1-hectare experimental units, which will serve not only as foci for ongoing research but also for dissemination of best practice. The project will initiate this process with a stakeholder training workshop focused on species selection and monitoring growth, biodiversity and ecosystem services provision, following diagnostic visits to existing planted areas.

One of the greatest challenges in this work is the correct identification of species and collected seeds for planting. The principal herbarium in the region, HERBAM (in UNEMAT) was recently established and has limited human resources available. The project will assist seed collectors in the region through the provision of botanical support and training from HERBAM (drawing also on Kew’s experience and information on the flora of the region), and the provision of identification resources (reference collection).

Direct seed planting has proved to be one of the most successful methods for installation of agroforestry systems among agricultural smallholders. However, there are significant research lacunae to be addressed. These include species selection, germination rates, planting strategies and management practices appropriate to the local/social context. In order to address these issues a small research centre will be established for long-term experimental work, aiming to build capacity and provide information for a range of stakeholders (there are currently no other resources of this nature in the region). Principal areas of research to be initiated within the project include:

  • Evaluation of planting techniques and species combinations for production of food, generation of income, soil recuperation and restoration of vegetatrion.
  • Evaluation of seeds collected by the Rede de Coletores do Portal da Amazônia (seed networks) through germination tests in the field.
  • Provision of infrastructural support for seed networks.
  • Technical support (capacity building and network strengthening) for seed networks.
  • Desk/based research on afforestation species and properties/ characteristics/ requirements.
  • Capacity building for species selection and monitoring of agroforestry/restoration trials.
  • Establishment of experimental agroforestry/restoration trials.
  • Identification of seed collection species and development of reference collection/information resource.
  • Establishment of agroforestry/restoration resource centre and experimental programme.
  • Integration of findings, procedures and resources into ongoing/developing restoration programme in the region.

Project partners and collaborators

Brazil

Instituto Ouro Verde (IOV), Alta Floresta

UNiversidade do Estado de Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), Alta Floresta

Project funders

UK

Defra (International Sustainable Development Fund)