Fazenda Toucan Cipó, in the municipality of Santana do Pirapama (Minas Gerais State, Brazil), is located between the presently protected Parque Nacional da Serra do Cipó and the Diamantina region, within an area highlighted for the importance of its biodiversity. Despite not being presently included within a protected area, it is located close to a planned State Park, the Parque Estadual do Intendente, whose existence was proposed following the initiation of the project. This strengthens the case for detailed studies to justify widening and planning new conservation efforts within this area, which is known to be strategically placed in a corridor of high ecological significance. Recent development of steel manufacturing plants in the neighbouring cities of Sete Lagoas and Belo Horizonte have increased the demand for fuel, which has affected the local cerrado vegetation through the production of charcoal to feed the industry.
In February 2007 a joint expedition from Kew and the University de São Paulo undertook the first vegetation survey by means of general collection. Several different habitats were visited and three new plant species were discovered in that expedition alone, together with several new records of endangered/rare species occurring in this extremely rich area. The expedition also began ground-truthing for the vegetation mapping programme.
Systematic vegetation mapping in the area started in 2008 at two levels: a detailed conservation survey of the different vegetation types within an area of 10 square kilometres including Fazenda Toucan Cipó and the surrounding area, and a vegetation change study looking at the reduction of the area of cerrado vegetation and its impact in the municipality as a whole.
Four major collaborative field trips were carried out between 2009 and 2011, aiming to produce a detailed vegetation survey and to undertake general botanical collecting. Twelve different vegetation types have been studied, amongst which the most representative of the region are open formations such as highland rocky fields (campo rupestre) above 1,000 m, and semideciduous forest and cerrado between 700 and 900 m. Human impacts have also been analysed, and scientific papers and a photographic plant guide for the area are in preparation.
The production of a fieldguide with 1,145 species of vascular plants (Zappi et al. 2014), most of them illustrated with high-resolution images has proven to be extremely useful for collecting living plants and seeds to cultivate in the local botanical gardens, and to initiate a pilot project relating to local uses of plants. The discovery of several new species (Encholirium agavoides, E. ctenophyllum, Pilosocereus frewenii, Psyllocarpus densifolius, Xyris pirapamae, Vellozia sp. nov., Barbacenia sp. nov., Eremanthus sp. nov., Phyllanthus sp. nov. & Evolvulus sp. nov.) and the rediscovery of species previously known only by their type collection and/or thought to be extinct (Alcantarea hatschbachii, Lychnophora humillima, Gaylussacia riedelii) are amongst the important outcomes of the intensive fieldwork.
The outputs of this project include detailed recommendations for conservation priorities in the region provided to the Parque Estadual do Intendente, increase in the knowledge of local plant uses, and the publication of a field guide to raise public awareness of the importance of local biodiversity.
Key papers published since 2010
Zappi, D.C., Calió, M.F. & Pirani, J.R. (2014). Flora da Serra do Cipó: Rubiaceae. Bol. Bot. Universidade de São Paulo 32(1): 71-140.
Zappi, D. C., Milliken, W., Hind, D. J. N., Biggs, N., Rando, J.G., Malcolm, P. & Mello-Silva, R. (2014). Plantas do Setor Noroeste da Serra do Cipó – guia ilustrado. Ed. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, 312p. ISBN 978184246502-8.
Forzza, R. C. & Zappi, D. C. (2011). Side by side: two remarkable new species of Encholirium Mart. ex Schult. & Schult. f. (Bromeliaceae) found in the Cadeia do Espinhaço, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Kew Bull. 66(2): 281 – 287.
Zappi, D. C., Baena, S. & Milliken, W. (2010). Projeto Flora Toucan Cipó, Santana de Pirapama – MG – Relatório e Mapeamento da Vegetação. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (http://www.kew.org/science/tropamerica/vegetation/documents/pirapama.pdf).
Zappi, D.C . & Taylor, N. P. (2011). A new species of Pilosocereus subg. Gounellea, P. frewenii, from SE Brazil. Bradleya 29: 131 – 136.
Project partners and collaborators
Charles Frewen – Fazenda Toucan Cipó
Prof. Renato de Mello-Silva – Universidade de São Paulo
Marcelo Devecchi – – Universidade de São Paulo
Juliana G. Rando – Universidade de São Paulo
Dr Rafaela C. Forzza – Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro
Míriam Pimentel Mendonça – Fundação Zoobotânica de Belo Horizonte
Carlos Alberto Ferreira – Fundação Zoobotânica de Belo Horizonte
Juliana Ordones – Fundação Zoobotânica de Belo Horizonte
Viviane Scalon – Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto
Gérson Romão – Escola Superior de Agricultura Luís de Queiroz, Universidade de São Paulo