Forest Fragmentation – Most of the Interior Atlantic Forest which remains survives in small pockets in the Pontal do Paranapanema, a poor rural area west of São Paulo inhabited mainly by traditional rural communities. The IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas began its work in the region in 1997. While some of the forest is protected within the 350 Km2 Morro do Diabo State Park, beyond its borders the forest is under threat from sugar plantation, cattle ranching and rural settlements. Population growth in the region has also increased demand for charcoal, leading locals to replace natural forest with fast growing eucalyptus and subsistence agriculture. Two hundred families live inside designated protected areas. Private land is generally subjected to different agricultural activities, with the size of properties varying from 10 to 200 ha (small farms), 200-1.000 ha for larger farms.
Forest fragmentation process on the Upper Paraná Region (source Di Bitetti et al. 2003).
Loss of ecological integrity – Most forest patches are now isolated and too small to maintain ecological integrity without conservation action. Without enough contiguous forest in which to hunt wild prey, jaguars and ocelots increasingly predate domestic animals leading to increasing persecution. Deforestation rates remain high, leading to increased isolation of these species populations, increasing their vulnerability. People compete with jaguars and ocelots for prey, and they are frequently shot by ranchers despite protective legislation.
Biodiversity benefits – IPÊ has developed the concept of using jaguars and ocelots as “Landscape detectives” to inform and feed into the process of reforestation. Information about how these species use the remaining forest is used to plan and manage reserves and large interconnected eco-regions. This cost-effective approach benefits all species that share jaguar and ocelot forest habitat, which as well as these species includes: the critically endangered black-lion-tamarin, lowland tapir, peccaries, macaws and many endangered species.
Black-lion-tamarin, endangered specie that still occur in the Pontal Region.
Community – local people are central to the project and are project executors as well as beneficiaries. A landscape level approach is being applied, combining research and biodiversity management with community involvement and habitat restoration to empower local people to improve their conditions of living whilst also protecting their forest. We expanded this community based tree planting program, which will result in over 1.8 million new trees over the life of the project. With IPÊ we are now applying an exciting regional strategy with support from local decision makers to plant forest corridors between remaining forest fragments, which will benefit from this research with jaguars and ocelots. IPÊ has spent the past decade coordinating efforts to conserve a large part of the remaining inland Atlantic Forest in the state of São Paulo by involving farmers, landowners, sugar plantations and local government. The project is currently undergoing expansion, linking forest fragments with new forested wildlife corridors, agroforestry benefit zones and helping over 400 families to cultivate 120 square kilometres of degraded farmland.
Agroforestry system to promote connectivity of forest patches