Restored forest, REGUA
|REGUA’s protected forest|
With development from the nearby city of Rio de Janeiro quickly expanding into the Guapiaçu Valley, Rainforest Trust awarded its Brazilian partner, REGUA, a $10,000 grant to map and study lands surrounding the organization’s rainforest reserve. The two-year grant will allow REGUA to determine vegetation cover and identify property lines within the entire 186-square-mile Guapiaçu Valley. With map-mapping efforts complete, REGUA will be in a position to effectively prioritize land purchases thus improving its ability to create wildlife corridors and protect the Atlantic Rainforest’s vanishing biodiversity.
“The map will be a valuable tool to help us build a portfolio of properties that will support the REGUA master plan, leaving a legacy of 80-85% of protected forest cover [in the Guapiaçu Valley] and contributing towards the perpetual safety of biodiversity in the Atlantic Rainforest,” said Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s project manager.
Construction from the prosperous city of Rio de Janeiro is rapidly moving up the Guapiaçu Valley as the temptation to build second homes in the beautiful valley proves irresistible to the city’s wealthier citizens. In 2011, the already attractive Guapiaçu Valley became even more so with the paving of a dirt road which significantly cut travel time from the city.
The Guapiaçu Valley, home to many threatened rainforest species, extends over an area of 74,000 acres. Locke estimates that 56% of the valley still has good forest cover. To date, REGUA has bought and protected nearly 20,000 acres covering approximately 25% of the Guapiaçu Valley. Since 2007, Rainforest Trust has partnered with REGUA to protect nearly 700 acres of Atlantic rainforest. Projects to protect more are currently underway.
The opportunity for REGUA to expand rainforest protection is due, in large part, to broad economic changes in Brazil. Until recently, the rural economy in the Rio de Janeiro State followed a pattern of destructive development based upon logging and banana production. This model began to falter, however, during the last decades of the 20th century as Brazil became increasingly industrialized and farmers migrated to cities. Simultaneously, banana plantations in the Guapiaçu Valley disappeared as the industry moved on to new, more lucrative areas. Hillside properties abandoned in the wake of these changes have allowed REGUA to continue growing its borders.
“Though REGUA’s acquisitions already contribute to the protection of the Atlantic Rainforest in a significant way, we wish for more,” Locke said. “If it’s possible to achieve 80-85% forest cover, why shouldn’t we continue to try to acquire more land?”