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Project for recovering gallery forest recovers São Paulo's biodiversity and preserves its water system

MIGUEL BOYAYANThe diversification of the supply of saplings from the nurseries is strategic for the project’s successMIGUEL BOYAYAN

At the beginning of this century, it was estimated that the areas of degraded gallery forest in São Paulo added up to 1.3 million hectares, exposing the state’s water system to risk. A large part of this deforestation has occurred in an irregular and illegal manner, and, as required by law, these areas should be recovered. At the time, though, actions for reforestation were facing two obstacles. The first was the low capacity for producing saplings, some 13 million a year, compared with the needs for replanting, which called for a supply of 2.6 billion saplings. Keeping this pace of production, any forecast for the restoration of these areas would exceed a period of 200 years. The second problem was the poor quality of the reforestation projects, which made use of few species – generally the saplings that were cheaper and more readily available on the market -, thus being limited to reconstituting the landscape. “In areas of natural forest, there are between 100 and 400 arboreal species”, points out Luiz Mauro Barbosa, the director-general of the Botany Institute of the State Secretariat for the Environment (SMA). To worsen the situation, among the species used, two thirds had a short life cycle, that is to say, they would grow rapidly. “The result is that, in 10 years, they would begin to decline and would have to be replanted”, he says.

The scenario of degradation and the lack of technical guidance on reforestation called for a swift intervention. And this was the objective of the project Models for Plant Repopulation for the Protection of Water Systems in Degraded Areas of the Various Biomes of the State of São Paulo, carried out by the Botany Institute (IBt) in partnership with the Municipal Governments of Ilha Comprida and of Mogi-Guaçu, with the support of International Paper and the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (Esalq/USP), under the FAPESP’s Public Policies Program.

Under the coordination of the Botany Institute’s director-general, the project got going in 2001. “Already in the first stage, we found that the situation was worse than we had imagined”, says Barbosa. In this diagnosis, an assessment was made of 98 reforested areas all over the state, in a total of 2,500 hectares. “The areas monitored had various sizes and were connected with companies and universities, with the majority of the projects not using more than 30 species”, explains Barbosa. Diversity is only greater in areas close to great remnants of preserved natural forest, as, for example, in the Atlantic Rain Forest, on account of the natural propagation of given species. In the areas of coastal strips, though, the situation is even more serious: there, it is possible two find arboreal species typical of inland forests, which had been planted wrongly. Low diversity has its origins mainly in the small supply of diversified saplings and even in the differentiated production cost, since the species most used were always the same. The researchers found that, in the 41 forestry nurseries consulted, about 590 native arboreal species are produced. But most concentrate their production on those 30 species identified in the reforestation areas included in the sample.

Replanting under guidance
The first measure of the team of researchers involved in the project was to propose to the SMA the drawing up of Resolution nº 21, published in November 2001, regulating procedures for replanting in degraded areas. Since then, the new rules have been used as a guide for analyzing and approving replanting projects, as well as providing guidance for heterogeneous reforestation in the state of São Paulo. “Some of the objectives of the project were to identify the most suitable ways for transferring knowledge to society, providing input for environmental licensing in the state, and supporting actions of the public prosecutor’s office and the SMA, amongst others”, Barbosa explains. “The resolution sets a technical parameter to be observed.”

The resolution established proportions of the minimum number of species per hectare. Reforestation projects of up to one hectare, for example, should provide for 30 species. Then for those in areas larger than 50 hectares, the minimum requirement is 80 distinct species. Another recommendation aims to protect species threatened by extinction, respecting the regions or formations of their occurrence. Accordingly, areas for replanting of up to 1 hectare should have 5% of saplings of at least five distinct species threatened with extinction. In the large projects, with over 50 hectares, plants becoming extinct should make up 10% of the saplings, with at least 15 distinct species.The saplings should preferably be produced with seeds coming from the same region and native to the corresponding biome or forest formation, also with at least 20 centimeters in height and a root system that guarantees their survival post-planting.

The measure is detailed: it suggest that measures should be adopted to control ants in the reforested areas, and that a minimum of three weedings and / or hoeings, keeping the between rows with vegetation and low. “If possible”, reads the resolution, “manure should be applied at least twice a year, with a formulation normally used in the region, or in accordance with the results of the analysis of the soil.” In the case of degraded areas located in coastal strips, mudflats and swamp forests, 50% of the saplings should be of species existing in the neighborhood.

The resolution also details a list of 247 arboreal species as examples, with an indication of the ecosystem of their natural occurrence and the successional class – that is to say, taking into account pioneer and non-pioneer species – to facilitate the implementation of the projects. This list has just been expanded. The Botany Institute has launched a manual Diversifying Reforestation in the State of São Paulo: species available by region and ecosystem, with suggestions of 589 species that can be usedin replanting. “The book is also the result of research sponsored by FAPESP”, Barbosa points out.

It is still too soon to assess the effects of the resolution on biodiversity, since it has been observed for a little over a year and a half. But there are signs that its effects are positive. “It is already possible to see a greater conservation of biodiversity and a better quality in reforestation”, Barbosa notes.For example, in 2002 International Paper do Brasil Ltda. adopted the new guidelines for planting the São Marcelo Forestry Park, which the company maintains. They planted 732,000 saplings in 439 hectares, with an average of 1,667 plants per hectare. 240 hectares of this area were replanted using 101 arboreal species native to the regions of Mogi-Guaçu, Aguaí and Espírito Santo do Pinhal. According to Miguel Magela Diniz and Doraci Milani, the park’s technical supervisor and technical manager respectively, this was the first area in the state to be recomposed with the full observance of the technical parameters stipulated by the resolution, guaranteeing greater diversity in the flora andnutritional support for the local fauna. Comparing the repopulation procedures before and after the resolution, they conclude that using a lower diversity of species means the cost of implanting the native forest in the initial stage is lower, due to the rapid covering of the soil, but, in the future, it is necessary toenrich the population with other species, which ends up bringing additional costs.

In Ilha Comprida, a municipality installed in an environmental protection area in the south of the state – where the municipal government is a partner in a project sponsored by FAPESP -, the resolution is also showing good results. To expand the supply of saplings and to train local producers, a municipal nursery for forest species from the coastal strip and the mudflats was set up in an area that used to be a garbage tip. The mudflat saplings are being used in planting an area of 6,700 m² in the urban region, which has been suffering from processes of erosion. “This alternative seeks to avoid carrying out building works, which would increase a lot the expenditure of funds for containing the erosion”, says the mayor, Décio José Ventura. “The project”, he reckons, “has created a new awareness amongst the nurserymen. They themselves are suggesting, for example, the production of saplings of what is known in the region as cataia (Pimenta pseudocaryophyllus), a species used in the production of a cachaça typical of the region.” Also under study is a project for tree planting in the urban sector with native saplings produced in the local nurseries. “The resolution may become consolidated as a legal instrument for restoring the biodiversity of São Paulo”, reckons Ricardo Ribeiro Rodrigues, from Esalq.

Besides the resolution and the manual on species, the project sponsored by FAPESP has promoted, in the course of two years, a series of actions of transferring knowledge to society, like the training of the nurserymen and seed producers, courses on conservation, about seed technology and sapling production, as well as environmental education in schools, besides a series of seminars. The last seminar and workshop on the recovery of degraded areas, held on September 12 and 13 at the Botany Institute, brought together about 550 researchers, technicians, environmental police and specialists in environment and reforestation, besides mayors, to assess the advances from the SMA’s Resolution nº 21/01 and the prospects. These contributions have brought an advance to the criteria established in the resolution and should result in the drafting of a new set of rules, a new resolution. Amongst the modifications foreseen, there is the number of species necessary for guaranteeing diversity. Thus, for areas being recovered larger than 1 hectare, the new proposal suggests the planting of a minimum of 80 different arboreal species, with a maximum limit of 20% of the total of saplings for any one species. The chosen species should be included in two ecological groups: pioneer and non-pioneer, and a minimum limit of 40% for either of the groups taken into account.

Other aspects also taken into consideration by the specialists refer to the criteria necessary for recovery by means of direct sowing, inducing and / or carrying out natural regeneration, amongst others. These projects should take into account an assessment of the landscape; an assessment of the history of degradation of the area; an assessment and the removal of factors of degradation; an assessment of the processes of natural regeneration, and making good use of the potential for self-recovery.

The Secretary for the Environment, José Goldemberg, who took part in the event, guaranteed that the secretariat is willing to draw up new resolutions for facing up to the challenge of recovering the degraded areas of the state. “This public policies project is paradigmatic”, he explained, mentioning that the quality of the program for recovering the gallery forests has guaranteed the SMA US$ 7.7 million in funding from the World Bank. Also present was FAPESP’s scientific director, José Fernando Perez.

The Project
Models for Plant Repopulation for the Protection of Water Systems in Degraded Areas of the Various Biomes of the State of São Paulo (nº 00/02020-9); Modality Public Policies Program; Coordinator Luiz Mauro Barbosa – Botany Institute – SMA; Investiment R$ 178,062.59