Planting Native Trees Protecting Brazilian Waterways
The Amazon’s biodiversity and less known neighbor is being restored by Ocean Blue, one tree at a time. By Karisa Boyce
The Amazon Rainforest is the most biodiverse tropical rainforest on the planet. We value the Amazon for its canopy that 1 in 10 wildlife species in the world depend on for life and for the untapped potential of medicinal sources. While the Amazon has experienced at least 7,457 fires in September alone, a little less known neighboring biome called the Cerrado region has felt at least 8,012 fires this September.
The Amazon is vital for global biodiversity and combating carbon dioxide levels. The Cerrado region is arguably equal in importance to its neighbor to the west. The Cerrado region is a vast wooded grassland that covers over 20% of Brazil. Being the world’s most biodiverse savanna region, 5% of the Earth’s flora and fauna call Cerrado home.
Approximately 70% of the biomass in the Cerrado is underground and may hold up to 118 tons of carbon per acre. Agricultural practices that began in the region during the mid-20th century, along with the more recent rapid expansion of the soy and beef industries, have caused mass deforestation of about half of the region’s biomass. If current trends continue, the Cerrado will lose tens of millions of native vegetation acres by 2030.
This is sad news for already endangered wildlife like jaguars, giant anteaters, armadillos, and maned wolves. It’s also putting water quality at risk for streams and rivers that people depend on for drinking water. The director of Ocean Blue Project, Richard Arterbury, believes that the best solution for the region is to halt deforestation and begin immediate recuperation with planting of native trees and shrubs that have been lost to fires and that wildlife depend on for survival.
Ocean Blue Project board member and Regional Director of Brazil, Marina Losi Monteiro grew up in Goiás, a state of Brazil, situated in the Center-West area of the country that is home to both the Amazon and Cerrado regions. The name Goiás derives from the name of an indigenous community. Right now, Monteiro is working with the local government of Nova Veneza and Brazabrantes cities of Goiás, to restore a local stream, with goals to prevent water pollution, and air pollution.
Streams and rivers are the lifeblood for inland areas like the Cerrado, and each of these eventually flow to our one world Ocean. Monteiro stated, “There is one little spring that falls to a bigger one called Ribeirão Cachoeira and that one falls to a river called Meia Ponte which is the one that provides water to many little cities, like Brazabrantes with a population of more than 3,000 people and the metropolis Goiânia where over 1.3 million people live.”
Beginning at the stream headwaters, called the “nascente” or “olho d’agua” which means “spring” in Portuguese, Monteiro is establishing habitat for target species including a fish called Piauçu (Leporinus macrocephalus), whose survival is threatened by degradation and predatory fishing. The South American Tapir, or Anta in Portuguese (Tapirus terrestris), is also being targeted because it is the largest surviving native land mammal that is also very important for seed dispersal. Another target species for the project is the Giant Anteater or Tamanduá Bandeira (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), the icon of Cerrado whose current status for survival is critical. Tamanduá Bandeira is one of four living anteater species and the only living member of genus Myrmecophaga.
The restoration and wildlife enhancement project in Brazil’s Cerrado region is being developed to educate youth from local schools while enhancing wildlife habitat for target species like Piauçu, South American Tapir, Giant Anteater and many more. Plantation of native shrubs and trees will stabilize water temperature as canopy grows to shade the area while the roots will help prevent erosion and sedimentation of the stream and sequester carbon dioxide underground.
Monteiro is doing more than plantation events with local youth as Marina and her family are also leading their community in cleanup efforts. On International Cleanup Day on September 21st, volunteers removed a lot of plastics, glass bottles and metals by the local stream, Ribeirão Cachoeira. That cleanup project also allowed the volunteers to have more contact with nature and become more aware of local plant and animal species. Monteiro is now planning more cleanup events and environment education projects for and with the community.
Water Pollution Facts
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Did You Know?
Did you know that planting trees cleans the ocean? It’s because water flows downstream and inland water sources end up in the ocean eventually. Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:
Trees provide shade for streams and rivers, stabilizing water temperatures. Water that’s too warm grows algae and stable temperatures provide habitat for wildlife to thrive.
Trees stabilize river banks, creating a buffer zone and reducing erosion. The more stable a bank is, the cleaner the water will be.
Tree roots filter polluted stormwater. Before rain water washes dirty streets into waterways, organisms that exist in symbiotic relationships with the trees keep toxins from flowing into waterways.
Tree roots suck up excess water. When heavy rains arrive the roots help reduce flooding. Flooding contributes to erosion and polluted stormwater runs into streams and rivers.
Trees create wildlife habitat and birds spread seeds from native plants to create more habitat.
Trees take in carbon emissions so the ocean doesn’t have to.
Within a year or two after planting you can rest in the shade under the tree you plant. Not only do trees help clean the ocean by reducing sediments that cause water pollution, they reduce dependency on coal and provide economic value to communities. Shaded homes require less energy to cool, lowering carbon emissions and reducing energy costs. Read more on Plastic pollution facts: