Making tree planting work for threatened trees in Brazil

Conservation Problem

Forest restoration could have huge benefits for threatened trees in Southern Brazil’s Araucaria forest. However, most tree-planters use a limited selection of common species, missing the opportunity to plant out and help save the region’s most threatened species.

Project Goal

Working with a wide range of nurseries and tree-planters, our aim is to mobilise a change in the species selected for growing and planting, leading to the recovery of a rich and diverse Araucaria forest, containing healthy populations of the region’s most threatened trees.

Why these species?

Ninety-nine percent of primary Araucaria forest habitat in southern Brazil has been lost due to logging and farming. As a result, 72 of its 352 native tree species are threatened or are extremely rare.  These include iconic candelabra trees (Araucaria angustifolia), high value timber species such as the imbuia (Ocotea porosa) and rare palm trees (Butia eriospatha), much loved by gardeners as beautiful ornamental plants.

In the face of such extreme habitat loss, many threatened species are failing to regenerate naturally, and need tree-planting to help boost numbers and ensure long-term survival.

Although restoration planting is set to increase in Brazil (e.g. the Brazilian government has committed to restore 12 million hectares of forest across the country by 2030), relatively little attention is given to ensuring a large diversity of native and threatened species are included in plantings.

Indeed, the majority of tree nurseries and planters operating in the Araucaria forest region focus on a narrow range of common tree species.

Without a change in practice, the huge investment going into forest restoration is unlikely to benefit the threatened trees found in southern Brazil.

Variety of species are on back of truck at Chauá nursery, on their way to be planted in Flona do Assungui State Park/ Sociedade Chauá

What are we doing about it?

Working with our local partner, Sociedade Chauá (Chauá), our strategy is to catalyse a change in restoration practice, engaging with the nurseries and planting organisations working in the Araucaria forest to increase the number of threatened tree species they grow and plant. We will address key factors that currently limit the use of threatened species, including knowledge on how to grow them, availability of seed and awareness and motivation of the groups buying trees for restoration. To achieve this, we are carrying out the following actions:

  • Conduct research on where to find, when to collect seed from and how to grow and plant out threatened tree species from across the Araucaria forest.
  • Grow threatened trees in Chauá’s nursery and plant them out across the Araucaria forest, providing an example for others to follow.
  • Provide training to other nurseries, helping them to grow more threatened tree species and therefore increasing supply of seedlings available for tree-planters.
  • Encourage farmers, businesses, NGOS and universities to plant out a wider range of threatened trees across the landscape.

Children visit Chauá Nursery as part of the Project Pequeno Campolarguense during Environment Week/ Sociedade Chauá

Key achievements

Our work is leading to real changes in restoration practice in southern Brazil, with more than 20,000 seedlings, from 40 different threatened species, planted out across the region by 25 other planting projects (ran by farmers, NGOs, businesses and universities). Through our engagement, these groups have shifted from growing a small selection of common species, to a wider selection of threatened species.

Furthermore, 11 other tree nurseries have added threatened species into their production, following training from Chauá. Chauá is providing ongoing support to these nurseries, helping them to access seed from a range of species, and providing training in germination techniques

This has been achieved as a direct result of Chauá’s work to develop and share knowledge on threatened tree restoration. Chauá first completed field surveys in search of ‘mother trees’ for threatened species in 2011, bringing seed back to their nursery and learning how to grow various species. Today, there are more than 130 different species (more than one third of the region’s entire tree flora) growing in this nursery, and we are constantly learning more about how best to grow and plant them.

Contact details

For more information on this project, please contact globaltrees@fauna-flora.org

Did you know?

Magnolias are among the oldest flowering plants. They evolved long before bees and instead relied on beetles to pollinate their flowers.