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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Capacity building for participatory monitoring of changing forests in sustainable use areas of the southwestern Brazilian Amazon

PI: Sabina Ribeiro (, Universidade Federal do Acre
U.S. Partner: Stephen Perz, University of Florida
Project Dates:  October 2015 - March 2020

Project Overview

4-461 Forest Health Workshop
Students at a state public school take part in a workshop on forest health, creating their own foreign models (September 2018).

Biodiversity in the Brazilian Amazon is the focus of numerous research initiatives, but significant knowledge gaps remain. The proposed project responds to several scientific priorities with regard to our understanding of forests in the Amazon. Forests in the southwestern Brazilian state of Acre are exceptionally biodiverse, but we still have limited information about many species. Further, climate change and extreme climatic events pose threats to forests, which require monitoring efforts that include fieldwork. The research team on this project will revisit established botanical plots to evaluate forest dynamics in terms of carbon stocks and biodiversity. This effort builds on previous work with National Science Foundation funding and under the RAINFOR program, both of which use established protocols. The team will also establish new botanical plots to fill coverage gaps in forest types underrepresented in existing plots. In both types of plots, they will add data collection protocols designed to detect changes in vegetation due to climate change, including tree mortality, seedling recruitment, and canopy gaps. These data collection protocols will permit more robust analyses in response to a suite of pressing scientific questions about forests in the Amazon. The revisits will allow analysis of forest dynamics, particularly by comparing carbon stocks and species composition over time. The new plots will expand forest coverage and plot sample size, providing a more representative picture of forests in Acre. Finally, the additional protocols will evaluate changes in forest structure and species composition in the context of debates over the implications of climate change for Amazonia.

The project team will share data with other researchers who also hold botanical data for Acre in order to expand their data sets. This will permit increased statistical power in hypothesis testing and open opportunities for additional collaborative publications. They will also deposit botanical specimens in regional herbaria, thereby increasing their importance as botanical collections and supporting taxonomic work in a region with many understudied species. Finally, their data dissemination plan seeks to take advantage of relationships among local communities by passing findings from their botanical plots to multiple communities and thereby expanding the reach of knowledge exchange. The planned capacity building efforts on the project highlight participatory methods to train community members in forest monitoring. This makes trainees capacity multipliers, since they can in turn implement the same participatory approaches to train other community members, thus increasing the project’s impact.

Summary of Recent Activities

In April and May 2019, Dr. Ribeiro and her colleagues met twice with staff from Fundape (Foundation of Support and Development of Teaching, Research and Extension of the Federal University of Acre) to clarify procedures for buying supplies for the learning kits being created under their PEER Evidence to Action (EtoA) supplement and to discuss some logistical problems associated with their field work. In May, Mrs. Yara Araújo Pereira de Paula and other team members revisited 16 Gentry plots for the last time under this project. Of the 16 plots, 12 still have forest cover. However, half of them may lose their forest cover in the near future due to the encroachment of other land uses, such as pasture. Also in May, the PI hosted a visit to her university by U.S. partner Dr. Stephen Perz. The researchers discussed project progress and future steps, budget issues, and development of a manuscript focusing on capacity building activities carried out under the PEER project. Dr. Ribeiro and her colleagues finished work on the manuscript after the visit and sent it to Dr. Perz for revision and comments. In June, the team completed preparation of voucher herbarium specimens collected in the Cumaru and Siberia plots. These vouchers will be deposited in the UFAC’s Herbarium in July 2019.

Activities on the PEER EtoA supplemental activity to create and launch an environmental education curriculum on Forest Health in local schools ran into some delays due to changes in state government that led to budget difficulties. As a result, the agency of the Secretary of State for Education and Sport (SSES) postponed their usual capacity building activities for teachers and other school staff, so Dr. Ribeiro and her team could not schedule their training activity to introduce their curriculum module until the state agency moved forward with its own training plans. Finally in June 2019 it became possible for the PEER team to go out to five municipalities to deliver the learning kits and train pedagogic coordinators and teachers on how to use the learning kits and apply the dynamics inside their classrooms. The municipalities visited were Rio Branco, Porto Acre, Xapuri, Assis Brasil, and Sena Madureira.

From July through March 2020, when the project is set to close thanks to a recent new no-cost extension, the team will compete additional protocols on tree mortality, forest regeneration, dead biomass, and canopy openness due to fallen trees in their existing RAINFOR plots. They will also finish up on their joint manuscript with their U.S. partner. Finally, they will distribution their learning kits to the five remaining municipalities (Cruzeiro do Sul, Rodrigues Alves, Tarauacá, Feijó, and Santa Rosa do Purus) included in their supplemental project on Forest Health and conduct training activities with the core team and supervisors from SSES.
4-461 Sample Collection4-461 Protocol Selfie
Team members collect and identify botanical samples from two RAINFOR plots in early July 2018 (Dr. Ribeiro at left and Mr. Silva at right).The team pauses during the implementation of additional protocols in the RAINFOR plots in September 2018 to snap a quick selfie (Mr. Silva at center rear; photos courtesy of Dr. Ribeiro).

The project has a Research Gate page, which can be accessed through the following link: A video on their field work is available on Facebook at

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