By Ayla Tiago
The Water and Forest Producers program in Rio Claro, in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, is based on the principle that producers who restore and preserve the springs in their properties should be financially compensated. This is known as payment for environmental services (PES). The pilot project is a partnership of the Conservancy, the Earth Institute of Environmental Preservation (ITPA), the Bureau of the Environment of the state of Rio de Janeiro (SEA), the Guandu Watershed Committee and the Rio Claro Municipality. To date, it has already made payments totaling US$ 144,883 to 62 landowners whose efforts have helped save 10,371 acres of forest and restore over 1,220 acres of degraded land.
Despite the fact that the program was started a little over four years ago, the presence of birds in Rio das Pedras and Rio Claro already signal the success of the restoration work being done in the area. Birds serve as environmental indicators in this important region whose system of basins is responsible for supplying water to 70% of the population of Rio de Janeiro state, or 12 million people.
Among the birds seen in the Rio das Pedras basin are two species of toucans (Ramphastos dicolorus and Selenidera maculisrostris) and two red-ruffed fruitcrows (Pyroderus scutatus and Corponis cuculatta) of medium/large size. The presence of large hawks is another indication of the good health of the forest since these birds eat mostly small forest animals. Three species of hawks were also observed during the field work: the black hawk-eagle, black and white hawk-eagle, and the mantled hawk.
Birds associated with the presence of certain kinds of bamboos were also observed, such as the black-billed scythe bill, the white-collared foliage gleaner, the giant antshrike, the ferruginus antbird and the ochre-rumped antbird. All these species depend on preserved forests for their survival and their presence proves the efficiency of the restoration work being done in the area. The study pointed out some negative results as well, such as the absence of commonly hunted birds, which can be an indication that the area still experiences pressure from hunting.
According to Leandro Baumgarten, Science Manager of the Conservancy´s Atlantic Forest and Central Savannas program in Brazil, "the study highlights two main points: the rare and sensitive species observed demonstrate the importance of the area for birds, and that the restoration work being done is efficient since species that cannot tolerate open areas and that were part of the original community are now back. There is still work to do, especially regarding the birds that have left the area, but in general terms, the results are very positive, especially considering that the project did not start that long ago”.September 11, 2013