PNE projects and programmes

Ongoing projects

Sustainable use of caatinga for fuelwood production

This long-term experimental project is working with local communities to investigate effective and efficient techniques for management of fuelwood trees in the caatinga vegetation.


Previous projects

The first phase of PNE included biodiversity studies, applied research into native plant use and ecosystem management, economic botany, the synthesis and dissemination of plant information and training. Projects concentrated on semi-arid areas, in particular three vegetation types: caatinga (deciduous thorn forest), brejos (relict high altitude moist forests, which are the lifeline of the rural economy in times of drought) and campo rupestre (montane rocky grasslands of especially high biodiversity).

The repatriation of herbarium data for Northeast Brazil

This project provides Brazilian researchers access to important data and specimens from Kew's collections.


In 1998 the Information, Dissemination and Training Project (IDT) was initiated to promote access, exchange and collection of information and knowledge on the plants of Northeast Brazil through a network of organizations and participating institutions. This major initiative established a system that is now managed by CNIP (Northeast Centre for Plant Information) based at UFPE, the Federal University of Pernambuco. The IDT concept was funded by Kew and implemented with funding from the Department for International Development (DfID).

Phenology, production and nutritive value of woody species of the caatinga

This project undertook phenological studies and nutritional analyses of 21 woody species featuring in the diets of small livestock in the caatinga. The results enabled the development of sustainable management techniques for the woody species of caatinga, increasing the production and quality of the forage whilst improving and maintaining plant biodiversity. Demonstration experiments were established in seven different municipalities of the interior of Ceará state. Research finding were disseminated among local smallholders through visits to experimental areas, field days at CNPC (National Research Centre for Goat Research) and distribution of information leaflets and other publications.

Legumes of the caatinga: species with forage potential

This project aimed to contribute to a better understanding of the forage potential of the caatinga, and to offer rural producers alternatives for pasture improvement through use of native legumes adapted to the semi-arid conditions of the Northeast. Extensive fieldwork was carried out to provide biogeographical and floristic information of the legumes of caatinga and to evaluate the growth habitat and reproduction requirements of species with high forage potential. All the information was stored in a database, for use in producing a book and a manual on improved practices for enriching and managing native pastures.

Field guides and forage crops

The Biodiversity Field Guide project produced a methods manual providing clear guidelines for authors writing field guides to plants, animals, vegetation or other aspects of biodiversity. The aim is to ensure that such guides meet the requirements of their target audiences: agriculturalists, academics, development and conservation agencies etc. The project involves collaboration between research institutions, universities, NGOs and rural communities from Brazil, Bolívia and the United Kingdom .

Project activities included production of two model field guides, serving to inform the development of the methods manual. One of the field guides, aimed at rural farmers and extension workers in rural communities, focused on 21 species of caatinga forage legumes. Thnis includes detailed information (selected by agriculturalists and technicians working in rural communities) on the use and management of the most important forage species in the region. The design of the guide was chosen by end-user representatives.

The other, larger field guide was designed for non-specilists, covering 250 species of caatinga legumes. The work of collecting and preparing the guide has involved botanists, ecologists, environmental education technicians, ethnobotanists, zoologists, conservationists, agronomists and foresters.

Identification and nutritional value of forage plants of the Parnaíba River Basin

This project aimed to identify and determine the nutritional value of forage plants in the Parnaíba River Basin. Information on their use was gathered from local agriculturists, and various analyses undertaken to evaluate nutritive value of the plants. The project also built a reference herbarium for forage species to assist further research. In addition, the project provided training opportunities for students to extend their knowledge and expertise in the area.

Collection and inventory of native forage plants of Petrolina, Afrânio, Ouricuri and Juazeiro

This project documented native forage species used in four different selected municipalities: Petrolina, Afrânio, Ouricuri (Pernambuco) and Juazeiro (Bahia) through a combination of interviews with local farmers, bibliographic survey and laboratory research. An inventory of native forage plants was undertaken and material collected for the CPATSA herbarium. The results obtained were disseminated to the scientific community and farmers through local radio and TV programmes, rural extension and government extension agencies.

Living pharmacies and an evaluation of medicinal plants in Northeast Brazil

This project was part of a larger programme aiming to provide affordable medicines, of proven pharmacological efficacy, for low income socioeconomic groups. This was achieved through the cultivation of scientifically validated medicinal plants selected from those traditionally used in the Northeast of Brazil. Existing and new data on medicinal plants were stored in databases together with information on their use. The project supported the extension of the demonstration medicinal plant garden at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC) - a model 'Living Pharmacy' developed by Professor Abreu Matos. Approximately 16 Living Pharmacies were established throughout Ceará and other states. The UFC medicinal plant garden has also become a major centre for scientific studies and training in the cultivation, use and preparation of medicinal plants for both Brazilians and overseas students. Leaflets covering cultivation, harvesting, preparation of the medicines and dosages for 12 species used to treat common ailments were produced for distribution to local people at workshops and clinics associated with the Living Pharmacies.

The study of medicinal and useful plants of Alagoas

This project aimed to document and evaluate popular knowledge of the medicinal plants of Alagoas State through an ethnobotanical survey with local healers, indigenous herbalists and local users. All the information was stored in a database and voucher specimens housed in the Herbarium of IMA. Species were selected for more detailed phyto-chemical study aimed at determining their active components, particularly in relation to anti-malarial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity. Medicinal plant gardens were established at the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL) to undertake scientific studies and a site for training in the cultivation of medicinal plants.

Survey of the medicinal plants of Paraíba State (Cariris Velhos) and pharmacological screening

This project aimed to identify and catalogue the most commonly used native medicinal plant species in the Cariris Velhos region. In addition, the project undertook pharmacological screening of selected species to evaluate the activities traditionally attributed to them. An important aspect of this project was the provision of training for students in ethnobotanical and taxonomic skills and the development of a database containing ethnobotanical and taxonomic data.

Medicinal and toxic plants of Cajazeiras, Paraíba in Northeast Brazil

This project carried out an ethnobotanical study of medicinal and toxic plants in the municipality of Cajazeiras, Paraíba. A checklist of medicinal and toxic plants was produced and a reference herbarium established to assist further studies in Campus V of the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB). A small demonstration garden of twelve raised plots was set up, modelled on the Living Pharmacy concept of Prof. Matos and containing examples of well known and scientifically tested medicinal plants. The garden serves as a means of disseminating information on medicinal plants to local communities and as a training centre for students.


Flora da Bahia

The overall objective of this project is to prepare an account of the flora of Bahia in a series of published volumes. Bahia, the largest of the nine north-eastern states, has one of the richest range of ecosystems anywhere in Brazil, including Mata Atlântica, restinga, cerrado, caatinga and various type of dry forest, as well as the vegetation of the Chapada Diamantina. This mountain range, rising to over 2000m, supports large areas of campo rupestre and a rich endemic flora including many species of orchids, vellozias, bromeliads and other interesting groups of plants such as the everlasting flowers (Eriocaulaceae).

The project is based at the State University of Feira de Santana and coordinated by Ana Maria Giulietti (UEFS) with two Assistant Coordinators: André Maurício de Carvalho (CEPLAC) and Raymond Harley (Kew). Participating institutions included: Centro de Pesquisa do Cacau (CEPLAC/CEPEC), Empresa Baiana de Deselvolvimento Agrícola (EBDA), Fundação Chapada Diamantina (FCD), Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Universidade do Estado da Bahia (UNEB), Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana (UEFS), Universidade Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia (UESB), Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz (UESC) and Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA).

Other participating institutions outside Bahia include: Centro Nacional de Pesquisa de Recursos Genéticos e Biotecnologia (CENARGEN), New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), Universidade de São Paulo (USP) and Kew. The project initially aims to extend the collecting of material to cover the whole state of Bahia, concentrating on areas of known high biodiversity which are poorly collected, and to prepare an account of all known collections from Bahia and herbaria of participating institutions, leading to a species check-list for the State.

The second stage will include the publication of a detailed flora of the vascular plants of Bahia in a series of volumes, vegetation maps, and priority areas for conservation. Finally there will be a book on economically important, endemic or endangered plants .


The main objective of this project, in collaboration with Kew, was to promote taxonomic research on the plants of Northeast of Brazil through:

•  Improved plant identification by means of a joint project with IPA (Institute for Agronomic Research, Pernambuco State)

•  Repatriating historically important taxonomic data from Kew Herbarium to NE Brazil

•  Participating actively in the training and qualification of PhD-level taxonomists from NE Brazil to support pure and applied research on natural plant resources

•  Maintaining and developing Kew's leading position as a centre of excellence for the taxonomy of plants from NE Brazil

Floristic diversity & plant distribution in the Central Bahia Mountains - The Chapada Diamantina

One of the main objectives of this project was to carry out a comparative survey of the flora of two mountains (Morro do Pai Inácio and Chapadinha) close to a new field station in Lençois (Bahia). In addition to a checklist of the flora of the entire Chapada Diamantina, the project also published a popular booklet on the more important useful plants of the area, to promote conservation and awareness of the value of the natural resources among both inhabitants of the region and tourists.

Plant species collected were incorporated in a database and housed in the herbariua at the Federal University of Bahia and Kew. The project involved seven participating institutions and provided valuable training opportunities for students.

Floral Composition and Diversity of the 'Brejos' of Pernambuco State , Northeast Brazil

This project provided a detailed study of the plant biodiversity of the 11 remaining Brejos (relict high altitude forests) in Pernambuco state. This work is vital for formulating conservation and sustainable utilisation strategies of these important forests. The project has produced the first map of Brejo forests through use of satellite images and land surveys. Comparative analyses of all studied sites were undertaken using 'Worldmap' software and cluster analysis. The project has contributed significantly to building the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco herbarium and provided training in taxonomy and field techniques, supported a postgraduate (MSc) programme, and provided opportunities for monographs and theses based on the biodiversity studies of the brejo forests.

The semi-arid flora of the Northern states of Northeast Brazil: caatingas and carrascos

This project aimed to survey and identify the flora of the semi-arid caatinga and carrasco in the states of Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte and Piauí in Northeast Brazil. Collected plants were incorporated into a database to be used used for the production of identification keys, distribution maps and the comparison of floristic areas. The project also aimed to characterise the physical and biological environment of the caatinga, thus providing valuable data for use in determining conservation and sustainable management strategies.