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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 - January 2021

Project Overview

4-461 Forest Health Workshop
Students at a state public school take part in a workshop on forest health, creating their own forest 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 February 2020, Dr. Ribeiro and several co-authors submitted a manuscript titled “Aligning Conservation and Development Goals with Rural Community Priorities: Capacity Building for Forest Health Monitoring in an Extractive Reserve in Brazil” to Ecology and Society, and following peer review it has been accepted for publication in the third quarter of this year (see citation and link below). In this manuscript they report on their capacity building activities stemming from work with rural communities in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve (CMER). These capacity building activities were one of the main objectives of their PEER project, i.e., to improve the capacity of stakeholders to use knowledge about forest biodiversity and carbon stocks for sustainable forest management.

In March 2020, Mr. Égon Fabricio de Castro Lima defended his Master’s thesis, which was entitled “Tree mortality in southwestern Amazonia?” In the thesis he used data collected under the PEER project, with the focus being on two main topics: (1) the main mode of tree death in the southwestern Amazon and (2) the mortality of species of economic interest under severe drought. Égon did his graduate research in the Master’s Program in Forest Science (CIFLOR) at UFAC under the supervision of Dr. Ribeiro.

Besides working on their core PEER project, Dr. Ribeiro and her group have also been working to complete activities on their PEER Evidence to Action (EtoA) Supplement aimed at developing and implementing Forest Health, an environmental education curriculum for school students. During the first four months of 2020, Mrs. Yara de Paula entered and analyzed the data from student and teacher questionnaires and essays, which provided metrics used to evaluate the team reached their EtoA targets on the project. From May through June, Yara has been preparing a first draft of a manuscript focusing on the activities that were developed under the Forest Health project.

Due to the fact that the project team members have been working from home in isolation since mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Brazil, keeping the project going has been very challenging. A no-cost extension has been issued through January 2021, and in the intervening months the PI reports that they will purchase some equipment, finish manuscripts, and complete work on their EtoA project.

Recent Publication

Ribeiro, S. C., N. G. Selaya, S. G. Perz, F. Brown, F. A. Schmidt, R. C. Silva and F. Lima. 2020. Aligning conservation and development goals with rural community priorities: capacity building for forest health monitoring in an extractive reserve in Brazil. Ecology and Society 25(3):5.
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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