Projeto Flora Toucan Cipó
Vegetation survey of Fazenda Toucan Cipó and surrounding area (Santana do Pirapama, Minas Gerais, Brazil)
Taxonomic and floristic research is now providing detailed evidence of the great botanical richness in the Espinhaço range, but there remains much to be done. Working towards improving conservation in one of the richest areas of plant biodiversity in Brazil, this project is investigating the flora of the campo rupestre vegetation and surrounding cerrado and other associated vegetation types.
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Fazenda Toucan Cipó, in the municipality of Santana do Pirapama, 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 (Drummond et al. 2005). Despite not being presently included within a protected area, the specific situation of this municipality strengthens the case for detailed studies to justify its conservation, as the area is strategically placed in the middle of 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 and this has affected the local cerrado vegetation, which is being burned to make charcoal to feed the industry.
In February 2007 a joint expedition from the Herbarium and the Universidade de São Paulo undertook a first survey of the vegetation by means of general collection. Several different habitats were visited, alongside the campo rupestre, 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 started ground-truthing for the vegetation mapping.
With support from the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation (2008) the project began vegetation mapping of the area. Satellite data were purchased to perform a detailed survey of the different vegetation types in and around Fazenda Toucan Cipó, and were processed in order to highlight both natural and disturbed sites. A vegetation change study, evaluating reduction of the area of cerrado vegetation and its impact in the municipality as a whole has shown 12% decrease on the forest cover in the region between 1986 and 2001, and further decrease of plant cover is expected.
The funding enabled the collaborative basis of the project to expand, and Kew staff were joined by researchers and students from the Universidade de São Paulo (herbaria SPF, ESA , SPSF), Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro and Fundação Zoobotânica of Belo Horizonte, the latter being stimulated by this project to start a programme to cultivate rare and endangered species found in the area.
Six field expeditions have been carried out to perform ground-truthing for the vegetation mapping and to develop the botanical inventory, amassing almost 2,000 plant collections and over 8,000 high-resolution images of plants and habitats. A total of over 1,000 species in 481 genera and 124 families of vascular plants were listed and, amongst these, over 10 species new to science were discovered (Forzza & Zappi in press), e.g. Encholirium agavoides. A species formerly believed to be extinct, Alcantarea hatschbachii, was also rediscovered. A field-guide and a plant checklist are under preparation.
For conservation and horticultural purposes, an impressive sample of local plants is currently growing at the Fundação Zoobotânica of Belo Horizonte, with 350 living plant records covering 110 species in 69 genera from 38 different vascular plant families.
Twelve different vegetation types have been analysed, amongst which the most representative of the region are open formations such as highland rocky fields above 1,000 m, and semideciduous forest and savanna between 700 and 900 m. Impacts caused by man are more marked in the vegetation found at lower altitudes due to agriculture and charcoal extraction, while the increase of the frequency of fires continues to be a worry throughout the region. The specific situation of the municipality is strategic as it lies within a possible ecological corridor linking the central and southern areas of the Serra do Espinhaço, strengthening the case for the creation of protected areas within the region.
Drummond, G.M., Martins, C.S., Machado, A.B.M., Sebaio, F.A., Antonini, Y. 2005. Biodiversidade em Minas Gerais, ed. 2. Fundação Biodiversitas, Belo Horizonte, 222pp.
Forzza, R.C. & Zappi, D.C. (in press). 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 Bulletin .
Kew project team
Project leader: Daniela Zappi
HLAA: Daniela Zappi, William Milliken, Nicholas Hind, Susana Baena, Eve Lucas, Ana Cláudia Araújo, Bente Klitgaard, Gwil Lewis, Sara Edwards, Nicola Biggs, Eimear Nic Lughadha and Amélia Baracat
HPE: Nigel Taylor
Project partners and collaborators
Charles Frewen (Fazenda Toucan Cipó)
Universidade de São Paulo ( SPF , ESA , SPSF)
Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto
Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro
Fundação Zoobotânica de Belo Horizonte
The Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation