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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 - September 2019

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

During the first week of July 2018, PEER researcher Mr. Richarlly Silva led a field campaign to perform the botanical identification of forest species in two new RAINFOR permanent plots established under the PEER project inside the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve (CMER). PI Dr. Sabina Ribeiro, parataxonomist Mr. Edilson Consuelo, and field assistant Mr. Wendel Araújo also took part in the campaign. Mr. Araújo is one of the community members who had participated earlier in the capacity building activities under the PEER project. In mid-July 2018, PI Dr. Sabina Ribeiro hosted her U.S. partner Dr. Stephen Perz and his postdoc Dr. Galia Selaya of the University of Florida for a one-week visit. They discussed recent progress and next steps for the PEER project and worked on developing a manuscript focusing on their project’s capacity building activities. Also in July, a new Master’s student joined the project team: Mr. Égon Fabricio de Castro Lima. He will have as his dissertation topic the study of tree mortality patterns in the Southwestern Amazon. He is doing his graduate research in the Forest Science (CIFLOR) Master’s program at UFAC under the supervision of Dr. Ribeiro. Meanwhile, another Master’s student on the project, Mrs. Marília Maria Silva da Costa, defended her Master’s thesis entitled “How does forest cover influence ant assemblages on a landscape scale?” Her work, which was financially supported by PEER funds, focused on studying the patterns that drive the positive influence that forest cover has on ant species diversity. She did her graduate research in the Ecology and Natural Resources Management (MECO) Master’s program at UFAC under the supervision of Dr. Fernando Schmidt, a researcher on the PEER project.
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).

August 19-22, 2018, Dr. Ribeiro, Dr. Schmidt, Mr. Silva, Mr. Lima, and Mrs. Angélica Maciel participated in the II Meeting of ABECO (the Brazilian Society of Ecological Science and Conservation) and VI Symposium on Theoretical Ecology ( in Campinas. Mrs. Maciel presented a poster entitled “Severe droughts increase mortality rates of forest species with economic value in southwestern Amazon?” While at the events, Dr. Ribeiro met Dr. Luiz Aragão, head of the Remote Sensing Division at the National Institute for Space Research – INPE, and invited him to Rio Branco to discuss joint interests with her and her team. When other business brought him to the area, he met with the researchers and provided several helpful suggestions to improve their analytical approach with Gentry plots. Also in August and into September, team members revisited three existing and two new RAINFOR plots to implement additional protocols to measure forest regeneration, dead biomass, and canopy openness due to fallen trees. Three other existing RAINFOR plots remain to be revisited, probably in October and November.

On the outreach side of the project, in September 2018 Dr. Sabina Ribeiro was invited to give two workshops for students in grades 6-12 in the state public school “Escola Presbiteriana João Calvino.” The focus was on forest health, focusing on what forest health means, why monitoring it is important, and how permanent plots are used in monitoring efforts. Ms. Karine Silva and Ms. Ingrid Morais supported Dr. Ribeiro during the workshops, which included an activity in which the students constructed their own models of forests with permanent plots inside.

Thanks to a PEER Evidence to Action (EtoA) Supplement, Dr. Ribeiro and her colleagues are also working to expand the impact of their original project by adding an environmental education and outreach component. During the third quarter of 2018, they worked on acquiring materials and assembling the learning kits to be used in the educational modules, as well as creating a book describing the educational dynamics for different knowledge areas. In addition, on August 2, they convened a one-day workshop for supervisors and pedagogic coordinators of the Secretary of State for Education and Sport (SSES) of the state of Acre to introduce the “Forest Health” project as a complementary activity under Asas da Florestania. Due to some bureaucratic delays encountered on the project, particularly on the supplement activity involving educational module development and implementation, a no-cost extension has been issued through September 2019 to provide Dr. Ribeiro and her team with the time they need to complete their planned work. In addition, the PI and PEER would like to recognize the important contributions of team member Mr. Richarlly Silva, who left the team at the end of September 2018 for a new permanent position at the Acre Federal Institute at Cruzeiro do Sul. He has demonstrated his strong abilities on both field work and statistical analysis while he has also built new expertise during his three years on the PEER project. Fortunately Dr. Ribeiro reports that he will remain as a collaborator for future activities even though he has now moved on to a new institute.

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 In addition, activities performed by the project team are also presented on the SOS Amazonia website at

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