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Biodiversity in the rainforest of Brazil

Hydro's collaborative research project in Brazil aims to protect biodiversity.

With our bauxite mine located in an area that was previously covered with tropical forest, Hydro has set a goal of balancing the opening of the mining area with reforested areas by 2017 and also aims, in the long term, for no net loss of biodiversity. One of the actions to achieve these goals - establishing a research program on biodiversity and climate change - is already coming true. & Nbsp;

When Hydro acquired the bauxite mine in Paragominas in Pará, Brazil, in 2011, we also inherited a great deal of responsibility. Only a small part of the area planned for mining was untouched forest when Hydro came up with its project, but we still want to help bring biodiversity back across the region. With about 50 years of human activity in Paragominas, a large part of the land has been affected by logging, livestock and agriculture and about 15 percent of the forest in this region is untouched tropical forest. & Nbsp;

“Hydro's desire is to make areas that have already been altered be in better condition than those that existed before Hydro's arrival. The pristine rainforest is located mainly in small valleys and along streams and will be preserved with Hydro's activities. We believe that we are able to make a positive contribution to this land through our reforestation actions. Our biodiversity research initiative is critical to achieving these goals, ”said Bernt Malme, Hydro's environmental manager.

Structure ready

The first scientific workshop of the Brazil-Norway Biodiversity Research Consortium (BRC) (see text box) took place in Paragominas in November 2013. Here, all member institutions presented papers relevant to the monitoring and research of biodiversity. In the initial phase, the focus was on evaluating the reforestation and monitoring work initiated by Hydro. A considerable amount of work has already been prepared for surveying and monitoring for revegetation and biodiversity.

“To strengthen Hydro's biodiversity monitoring and restoration activities, the consortium presented three specific research projects for consideration by Hydro,” said Torkjell Leira, an adviser to the Research and Collections Department, Museum of Natural History, University of Oslo.
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The first research project is related to biodiversity in general, soil quality, soil biomass and test fields for vegetation and reforestation. A second project will look at the releases of CO2 and methane from the mining area and from the areas being restored using different methods, while the final project will be to examine Mycorrhiza - a fungus that provides nutrients and soil water to the trees through a symbiosis.

A mobility project associated with the consortium and jointly financed by SIU (Norway) and CAPES (Brazil) was started. This project involves the mobility of students from the academic team as well as joint teaching, mainly at the Master and Doctorate level in relation to the biodiversity of tropical fungi. In Brazil, two master's theses on mammals are also planned at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) as a result of this new cooperation.

“There is excellent cooperation between Hydro, UiO and Brazilian institutions. After the initial mapping of conditions in Paragominas and the assignments of the consortium, we are now on the set, all eager to get started, ”said Leira.

Nucleation - a new and promising technique for reforestation

There are several possible techniques for reforestation and Hydro started implementing a new and promising technique called "nucleation" in January 2013. This method implies an uneven distribution of the topsoil to stimulate the natural landscape and capture rainwater. Stacks of cut wood are distributed to increase biodiversity through the creation of shelters for insects and animals and by increasing growth conditions for fungi and plants. Research on this method has shown promising results so far. However, Hydro had some challenges when starting to use this technique and some of the replanted areas had to be reclassified as an area to be rehabilitated. There is an ongoing process to optimize the technique based on the experience gained and to prepare for a large-scale implementation.
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“Regardless of the method of restoration, access to high quality seeds and seedlings is a challenge. To rebuild a diverse and healthy forest, it is essential to have a wide variety of species and genes in the seed bank, ”said Leira.

To begin to meet this challenge, Hydro has established a nursery for seedlings and epiphytes with a production capacity of hundreds of thousands of seedlings per year.

Documentation and monitoring

A wide variety of actions will document conditions in untouched forests and reforested areas, including recording the variety of species in untouched areas. This information will serve as important guidelines for rehabilitation.

In areas that have already been reforested, there is an initial monitoring of the new growth of plants and the new occurrence of animal life. Cameras were installed to monitor the passing mammals and platforms were built on the trees to monitor the phenology of the trees. This work should be scaled up even more with the continuity of it.

“At the moment, Hydro is able to record which species of animals exist in the areas. The UiO pilot project placed more than 30 camera traps across Hydro's property in Paragominas to increase monitoring of large mammals such as the jaguar and the tapir. But even more cameras are needed to track the number of individual mammals, their habitat and to detect trends in the population, said Leira.

A long-term vision is essential

As the bauxite mine was opened in 2006, the reforestation work is just beginning. The first attempts to rehabilitate mining areas were initiated by Vale, the former owner, in 2008. Fridtjof Mehlum, head of the Research and Collections Department at the Museum of Natural History, University of Oslo, highlights the importance of having a vision long term for this process.

“It will take time, but research done in other replanted areas shows that biomass grows again in 50 years. To take back the diversity of plants, it will take another 50 years, while a total of 150 years is needed to obtain the diversity of animals again. Of course, some species will need even older habitats, but most species are not dependent on trees that are hundreds of years old, "said Mehlum.
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“ We are confident in the work started by Hydro. I think we are all aware that there are obstacles and that we need to take into account that this is a challenging and long-term process, but with systematic efforts and sufficient funding we are confident that this work will make a positive contribution. ”

This text is machine translated. To view the original Portuguese text, click on PT on the top right of this window

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