Our goal is to promote ecological restoration of vegetation, soil, and water courses and springs in order to maximize flora biodiversity (seek to approximate reference ecosystems prior to anthropogenic disturbances), protect springs and water bodies, reduce soil erosion, and sequester carbon.
Buritis Brooks Nature Reserve (in red), with priority areas to restore marked in green and blue.
Land use history
The Canada Farm (2,500 hectares, from which the Nature Reserve was dismembered) had extensive cattle ranching as its main economic activity, with about 200 head of cattle until December 2020. In the last eight years, the owner leased the pasture to a third party that significantly increased the density of cattle in the area (more than 500 head), causing loss of vegetation and soil compaction, including in areas along water bodies. Some areas of Fazenda Canadá have been planted with brachiaria grass (particularly properties west of the RNVB, outside the Reserve's boundaries), but others remain with natural vegetation including Cerrado grasses (which is the case with most of the RNVB).
RNVB has little extension of intensely degraded areas. The entire area of RNVB was used as pasture for extensive cattle grazing. Some areas of vereda in the south of Buritis Island were planted with Quicuio grass (Braquiaria humidicola), which is very appreciated by cattle. The existence of a perennial water spring on Buritis Island is also an attraction to the cattle on the farm, particularly in the dry season, as evidenced by the strong trampling around it.
The cattle have been removed throughout the first half of 2021, but not completely. The amount of cattle has reduced, but not zeroed out by July 2021. This is because the previous owner continues to raise cattle that are not properly confined, and cattle from other neighboring properties also seem to frequent the RNVB. The situation is being circumvented by removing the cattle from Fazenda Canadá, and fencing off areas open to other owners, such as along the São Bartolomeu River (outside of the RNVB).
The regeneration potential of most of the Reserve is high given the presence of sprouts and seedlings and areas with vegetation in very good condition (particularly near the PNCV and at the mirador). The forest inventory verified that the natural regeneration of trees in areas of cerrado sensu stricto, in general, represents part of the composition of the adult stratum and with high density of individuals.
It is assumed therefore, the self-regenerative character of the sampled areas. However, when the analysis is carried out differentiating areas of cerrado rupestrian / dense hillside from those of cerrado ralo / typical of flat areas, it appears that the second environment, more open and impacted by livestock activity, has a deficit of species and regenerating individuals, especially in the class of young trees. This is a warning to the need for actions to enrich and restore the vegetation cover within the Reserve, especially with species of multiple uses (medicinal, fruit, honey, etc.) and adapted to low fertility and sandy soils.
Some neighboring properties have successfully restored areas degraded by pasture and exotic grasses, such as the Reserve / RPPN Bacupari, RPPN Vale das Araras and Fazenda Miraflores. We can draw important lessons from these experiences.
The reference situation refers to the original vegetation before conversion to pasture. Data from the forest inventory show that the RNVB has several phytophysiognomies:
Mata de Galeria
The results of the Forest Inventory should guide the actions to recover and recompose the vegetation cover of the Reserve, as well as environmental liabilities of neighboring properties.
It is known, for example, that floodable stretches of gallery forest need to be restored by a small group of species adapted to water saturation, while the non-flooded stretches are less restrictive in relation to the adaptation of species niches. Areas of hillside cerrado sensu stricto (rupestrian / dense) have a very distinct set of species from areas of Cerrado (sparse / typical) on flat relief, which can also guide the species to be used in restoration for ecological purposes.
Main sources of environmental degradation in Buritis Brooks
Invasive exotic grass in vereda area
Old cattle grazing area
The status of the zoned areas in the RNVB by the end of 2020 was:
Buritis Island: Cerrado sensu stricto in most of the area, with an area of Cerrado thickening (tending to become cerradão) in its central part due to fire control. Sloping area. The lower part (near the veredas) has exotic grasses (Brachiaria humidicola) and waterlogged soil. There is erosion in parts of the soil, and two gullies, one large at the limit of the island with the outer part (entrance to the vereda) and another in the inner part of the island. The high part of the island has vegetation in very good condition, at the limit with the PNCV. On the whole island, there is a great variety of Cerrado species (trees, bushes and grasses) and abundant birdlife.
Lower Sucupira: Flat area, cerrado sensu senso restrito, some areas with highly compacted and exposed soil but with the presence of regenerants. The area has undergone thinning of the typical cerrado tree stratum for cattle grazing. In some areas where there has been a high concentration of cattle for feeding, locally called threshers, there is intense soil compaction and exposure, in addition to the opening of numerous cattle trails. Due to the influence of the gently undulating topography, even with a low level of degradation there is evidence of laminar and furrow erosion processes, leading to large soil losses and occasional landslides. There is a great diversity of trees, bushes, and grasses typical of the Cerrado.
Santana's Viewpoint: Rupestrian fields in a very good state of preservation of vegetation and soil, particularly at the foot of the mountain near the boundary with the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park. Hygrophilous grasslands in the lower part, close to a water source (on the neighbor's property in the southern part of the property).
Gallery Forests and Waterways: There are three large gallery forests along the veredas in great condition, marked by the presence of the buritis and other ombrophilous species, including epiphytes such as the Cerrado vanilla orchid.
Ecological restoration plan
A topographic study was carried out in March 2021, by MB Consultoria e Capacitação em Geotecnologias.
Protection of the area under restoration
Fence part of the perimeter of the RNVB to protect it from trampling by cattle:
A 1.1 KM fence on the northern part of the RNVB was completed in April 2021, with four strands of smooth wire to contain cattle. The southern boundary with the park will not be fenced, the eastern and western boundaries will be protected by neighbors. Importantly, the owner of Canada Farm has committed to remove the cattle by June 2021. An additional risk is that other neighbors (e.g. Fazenda Veredas) also have cattle that pass Fazenda Canadá frequently.
Integrated fire management:
Preparation of an aceiro in July 2021 with a length of 2 meters on the southern and northern boundaries of the entire property. In the future, prescribed burning may be applied.
Laminar erosion control
Control exposed soil:
Identify the main areas of exposed soils to be covered (mostly in Baixa do Sucupira).
Cover the exposed soils with vegetation through enrichment of tree, shrub and grass species by seeds and possibly seedlings.
Control traffic of cattle, cars, people. Prepare trails to avoid trampling throughout the property, focus movement in the trail areas.
Control of gullies and ravines (physical techniques)
The first measure to be adopted is to reduce the velocity of floods. Conditioning the flow of water originating from the drainage of the floods is the first measure to be adopted, because this is the main mechanism that promotes the unleashing of the erosive process. This is done through detour (in the form of whiskers) and the opening of sedimentation basins (small dams). These small basins, during the rainy season, empty and fill about 15 times, providing moisture to the soil for longer periods, besides helping to contain erosion processes and revitalize streams and rivers. These basins provide water for wild animals, and enable the owner to irrigate vegetables and crops during the dry season, although it is not suitable for human consumption.
Control of surface and subsurface water (conservation of the drainage system).
Smoothing the edges, margins or flanks of these morphologies (re-flooding).
Place a series of obstacles conveniently spaced across the channel, such as dams, palisades, stone walls, etc., to retain water and sediments in the channel bed in order to reduce the velocity of the water runoff. Complete with the use of straw, grass to reduce water velocity and cover exposed areas.
Control of gullies and ravines (biological techniques)
Plant species with developed root systems inside and on the edge of the gullies, such as native grasses, shrubs (e.g. Fedegosão) and bushes (gameleira) inside the bed and in the gullies and ravines.
Use of plants from the legume family (Fedegosão, Angico, Garapa, Pau Jacaré, Vinhático, Farinha Seca etc.) should be prioritized.
Avoid cattle access to the gully, particularly when already in recovery.
Erosion Control Monitoring
Variables to be monitored include:
Bare cover area (drone image analysis).
Number and extent of gullies / ravines / furrows.
Map the different restoration zones
Planting of seedlings (1 hectare)
The restoration aims to protect the soil that suffers from erosive processes, make native Cerrado fruits available for fauna and human consumption. The map below shows in detail the area to be restored:
Initial characterization: Wet area with predominance of grasses (native and exotic) and presence of Cerrado trees and shrubs and gallery forest spaced throughout the terrain. Area suffering from advanced erosive process, with formation of gullies, due to the passage of cattle and torrents.
Restoration method: Recomposition of the native vegetation cover, by means of seedlings of native cerrado trees in spacing of 3 x 4 meters in one hectare, totaling about 600 seedlings. The technique of direct sowing in pits will be mixed with the use of Talisia esculenta (Pitomba) seeds together with the seedlings. Sowing of Senna alata (fedegosão) between the lines of trees for green manure (fertilizer) and protection of the soil currently exposed. In addition, there will be conduction of natural regeneration, through crowning (removal of the grass in the radius of 40 cm around the regeneration) to native trees and shrubs existing on the site. The objective is to reduce the competition for light and nutrients and to favor the growth of the woody species. This integrated model for recomposing the native vegetation cover was proposed by Forest Engineer Ricardo Haidar.
Implementation: The seedlings were prepared and purchased from Mr. Emílio Kalunga and his wife Giovania at their home in Cavalcante between November and December 2020, with seeds collected from the Kalunga territory.
The first 600 seedlings and the seeds of fedegosão and other species were planted in February 2021, at the height of the rainy season. The preparation of the pits and planting in the field took 4 days, with the participation of 5 people, led by Mr. Emílio and his family, under the supervision of Engineer Ricardo Haidar.
Maintenance: To increase the chance of survival of the planted seedlings, maintenance started in July 2021. and requires two people per week (cost R$500 per month).
Manual irrigation of the areas (using water from the mine).
Reduction of competition with grasses by crowning (but without exposing the soils, particularly in the dry season).
Learnings from planting the seedlings in the RNVB:
Seedlings attacked by armadillos or rodents soon after planting. Exact number of attacked is not certain, but not many.
Incorrect seedling handling in some cases (roots cut inside the bags, hole not too deep)
Planting in flooded area causing death of some seedlings (~15 according to Mr. Emilio, during his visit on March 3, after the end of the rains).
The soil flooded during the peak of the rains, but drained again afterwards. The plants were flooded for less than a week. Jatoba trees seem to have suffered more from flooding.
In July, Seu Emílio counted the survival rate - 23%. The seedlings died from lack of irrigation in the dry season, trampled and eaten by the cattle that still circulate in the area.
In September, Mr. Emílio counted the survival rate at around 30%, with 150 seedlings. Some seedlings have sprouted, which had been considered lost in the last count.
As of September 2021, cattle continue to enter the area and damage some plants. Jenipapo is particularly attacked, with some barus in the dry season also damaged.
The reduction of the grass at the height of the dry season has revealed several other seedlings, such as fedegosão and pitomba that are growing.
The jatobás of the cerrado are developing particularly well, in two years the canopy is already at risk of
Gallery forest restoration (? hectares)
In July 2021, 10 buritis trees were planted along the buritis creek. The seedlings were made by Seu Emílio, planted in pits of about 20 cm, with the addition of organic fertilizer. The seedlings were planted by children, in the reserve's first environmental education campaign.
Assisted Natural Regeneration (20 hectares)
The forest inventory found that the areas of sparse/typical cerrado have low richness and density of regenerants of the tree stratum, suggesting enrichment actions focused on species that occur there, such as Hancornia speciosa (Mangaba) and Lafoensia pacari (Pacari), which have food and medicinal use established by the local population. In addition to enrichment, biodiversity recomposition is indicated through seedling planting, direct seeding, and conduction of natural regeneration of varied species.
Assisted natural regeneration is a mix of active planting and passive restoration. In this approach, people intervene to help native trees and vegetation recover naturally, removing barriers and threats to their growth, using their knowledge of the land and ancestral traditions.
But what exactly can people do to help the land and limit the frequency and severity of disturbances that can harm young trees and prevent them from growing?
To prevent the spread of forest fires, people can build firebreaks and clear the forest floor of dry debris. To prevent cattle from chewing up saplings, fences can be built. To give native trees enough room to grow, invasive grasses and shrubs can be removed. And if natural regeneration alone doesn't increase vegetation cover fast enough, or if the desired species don't appear on their own, people can selectively plant trees to fill in the gaps.
Method: natural regeneration with little intervention (fire control, cattle) and enrichment of some species.
Enrichment: according to sprouts and existing seed bank, possible enrichment with other species.
Partnerships for restoration:
Quilombo Kalunga - Mr. Emílio, seed collection, area preparation and planting.
Cerrado de Pé Association - technical support, management plan, execution in direct seeding
Students - to be identified - to scientifically study the results of the restoration and provide assistance to improve the technique [UNICAMP, funds not yet secured].
Direct seeding (1 hectare)
Method: To be decided [direct seeding in total area].
Planting (define spacing, planting direction - row, cast, in holes or directly on the ground, cover the ground?). Usually begins in October, at the beginning of the rainy season.
Management (manual, mechanical mowing)
Species to be planted: To be decided - Take into account the attraction of fauna as the main objective.
Select the species to be planted: For the choice of species there are some suggested criteria to help in the decision: - Observe the type of vegetation and species that originally occur in the area; - Select native species that occur naturally in the region in the greatest possible number; - Use combinations of fast-growing native plants together with plants that grow at a slower rate; - Select species capable of colonizing degraded areas, such as road gullies, because these plants adapt to the conditions of bare soil, without organic matter and with high temperatures; - To restore savannas and cerrado grasslands we should include herbaceous and shrub species in these environments, as they are faster growing and can avoid occupation by invasive species. It is recommended to consider native plants that produce fruit and attract seed dispersing animals. These plants will also guarantee food resources for these animals over the years (insects, birds, mammals, fish, etc.).
Variables to monitor:
Area covered by native vegetation - % of soil covered by native vegetation. [verify the Protocol for Monitoring of Ecological Restoration Projects of the State of SP].
Survival rate of seeds / seedlings planted.
Density of regenerants (trees, shrubs and grasses) [measures the number of regenerating native woody native species / ha].
Regenerant richness (trees, shrubs and grasses) [measures the number of native regenerating native woody species / ha].
Canopy cover (in advanced stages of succession).
The verification of ecological indicators should be carried out by means of sample plots, which represent the entire area under restoration. The number of plots is a function of the area to be restored, and the different techniques being used (number of plots = number of hectares + 4). The project implementer will decide whether the location of the sample plots will be fixed (permanent plots) or variable. The plots must be randomly placed in the area to be monitored. In cases where the restoration is performed by planting in rows, the sample line of the plot must be positioned diagonally to the direction of the planting or seeding line (if any). Each plot should have a fixed size of 100 m2, 25m long and 4m wide. To assemble the plot, it is recommended that first the sample line be defined with a tape measure, and then the width of the plot be set at 2 meters on each side of the sample line, as shown in the figure below:
Monitoring the ground cover by life form (competing vegetation, exposed soil, trees, shrubs and native herbaceous plants), can be carried out using the point method: along a tape line stretched over 25 m, a two meter long bamboo pole is positioned every 50 cm, divided into four 50 cm parts, and all elements touching the pole are observed. Photographs can be taken every year of the same place and the ground cover can be observed. To measure species richness and the density of woody regenerants over 30 cm, a 25-meter tape is stretched and all plants that are present in a 1-meter band along the tape are counted and identified.
In direct seeding:
In the first two weeks, we should visit the area every 2 or 3 days, because this is when we check if the seeds are germinating well, and identify the causes of low germination, such as trampling, predation by ants, birds or other animals, dragging of seeds by rain, seeds too buried, etc. After the first two weeks we should return to the area between 40 and 60 days after planting to also check for unwanted plant infestation, and control if necessary. After that, if everything is going well, we monitor annually to check for excessive dominance or absence of any species of interest or successional group. (Source: Seed Paths).
Other variables to monitor include:
Springs and streams - Springs that spring up again. (Baseline = 1)
Biodiversity - data collected in different ways, including camera trap. Possible partnership with research entity. Decide which groups of fauna to monitor.
Uncontrolled fires, mostly caused by humans, are one of the biggest threats to the Reserve. Fires have great impact on vegetation, fauna, and can cause damage to infrastructure and material goods. It is known that the inappropriate fire regime (with annual periodicity and at the peak of the dry season) causes large fires in areas of native vegetation and consequent loss or excessive modification of native vegetation cover. However, fire exclusion policies are also responsible for large catastrophic fires, due to the high accumulation of combustible material. The RNVB aims to adopt integrated fire management (IFM):
Firebreaks. A 2-meter long firebreak was prepared in July 2021 on the north and south boundaries of the property. This firebreak will be maintained and cleaned annually. In the future, a firebreak will be constructed near the headquarters.
Prescribed burning. Beginning in 2022, the RNVB will experiment with controlled burning in some areas with greater dry biomass accumulation between May and July to promote a mosaic of burned and unburned areas. This is so that if a major fire reaches the reserve, there will be a lack of combustible material in certain locations and with this, the reduction of the intensity of the flames and the possibility of firefighting actions in more favorable situations.
Integrated Fire Management (IFM) proposes the use of controlled burning to prevent large fires in times of intense drought. It seeks to avoid the occurrence of a single, large-scale fire event with negative effects, promoting burns with reduced sizes and temporal and spatial diversity.
In a large part of the reserve, the accumulation of layers of decomposing plant debris, such as leaves, branches, trunks, and roots, on the soil of the vegetation formations was recorded. It was interpreted that this accumulation was due to the absence of fire for a period exceeding five years, especially in the hillside areas covered by rupestrian and dense cerrado. This condition has been favoring the establishment of some forest species in the hillside areas, especially where there are natural drainages with water retention. However, this intense accumulation of biomass can provide combustible material and facilitate the spread of high-intensity fires with losses of biomass of the standing tree stratum.