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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 (sabina_ribeiro@yahoo.com.br), Universidade Federal do Acre
U.S. Partner: Stephen Perz, University of Florida
Project Dates:  October 2015 - June 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 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

Most of the activities during the last quarter of 2019 focused on the PEER Evidence to Action (EtoA) supplement awarded to the PI Dr. Ribeiro to support environmental education curriculum development and implementation under the rubric “Forest Health.” PEER team member Mrs. Yara de Paula trained biology student in October 2019 on how to apply the dynamics created under the project inside the classroom. This activity was developed under the discipline Investigação e prática pedagógica em ecologia (Research and Pedagogical Practice in Ecology), coordinated by Dr. Fernando Schmidt at the Federal University of Acre (UFAC). After the training, the students were divided into groups and each group had to apply the dynamics in a public school of their choice. Later, each group presented a seminar at UFAC showing the results of the dynamics developed in the school they chosen.

In November 2019, Yara entered the data from student questionnaires and essays in order to compile metrics for evaluating if the EtoA project targets had been reached during the pilot phase of “Forest Health.” She also elaborated the methodology for a manuscript focusing on the project. In December, collection of student questionnaires and essays continued, with assistance in the collection effort provided by the rural education sector of the Secretary of State for Education and Sport (SSES). Despite many challenges, including financial crisis affecting the state of Acre, SSES staff managed to collect the PEER team’s materials and deliver them to the researchers in a timely manner for eight of the ten municipalities included in the project. However, for two municipalities (Santa Rosa do Purus and Assis Brasil), it is still unclear when the questionnaires and essays will be received. The rural schools in these municipalities are located in areas that are difficult to access, especially during the rainy season.

As for work to complete the main PEER project (activities not associated with the EtoA supplement), in December 2019 Yara uploaded tree census data for one new permanent plot to ForestPlots.net. She will upload the tree census data for the other plot during the first quarter of 2020. Also in December, the PI Dr. Ribeiro finished a final draft of a manuscript focusing on the PEER project’s capacity building activities. U.S. partner Dr. Stephen Perz and colleague Dr. Galia Selaya are making some final revisions, after which the paper will be submitted to a peer-reviewed international journal. Other plans for the first quarter of 2020 including processing and analyzing the student questionnaires and essays and additional manuscript preparation.
 
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: https://www.researchgate.net/project/Capacity-Building-for-Participatory-Monitoring-of-Changing-Forests-in-Sustainable-Use-Areas-of-the-Southwestern-Brazilian-Amazon. A video on their field work is available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/proexufac/videos/1525768487533666/).

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