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Planting tall saplings in reforestation areas foster increased biodiversity in the “Zona da Mata” in Minas Gerais



This novel and innovative forest recovery technique that helps maintain the biodiversity of the “Zona da Mata” was developed jointly by Companhia Brasileira de Alumínio (CBA) and the Federal University in Viçosa (UFV), with the help of greenhouse professionals in and around Dona Eusébia, MG. The Company has planted tall saplings of species native to the Atlantic Forest in CBA reforestation areas to accelerate flora recovery, with areas to expand fauna recovery. This technique was developed based on one of the main challenges of forest restoration – the competition between grasses and native forests. Native trees suffer from aggressive competition from invasive species such as brachiaria (signalgrass), which normally results in high mortality of planted saplings. To avoid this, taller saplings – averaging 2.5 meters, which is five times taller than the standard 50 cm -, are being planted in CBA reforestation areas.   This project has a number of benefits for the communities around CBA, for greenhouse owners in the region by creating a market niche, for the environment by accelerating forest restoration, and for academia by fostering the development of technologies with local greenhouse owners and managers, and different industry sectors. Christian Fonseca de Andrade, who manages the CBA units in the “Zona da Mata” stresses that these studies are in line with the company’s commitment to foster innovative actions and generate positive socioenvironmental transformations and impact that goes beyond the aluminum industry.   “We work hard to scientifically validate this initiative of our restoration team with UFV scientists, improving how we restore forests. This is one more technology developed as part of the bauxite mining environment, which has become a reference in sustainability, improving how we restore forests”, he added   Project implementation The sapling project is not only about planting but extends to area maintenance and monitoring until such a time as they have developed enough and are in ecosystemic balance. Planting tall saplings means shadow is cast on exotic grasses faster, helping weaken them and even eradicate these species that affect the development of small saplings. Tall saplings also require less fertilizer, crowning, and replanting as they are not in as much competition with aggressive species. Another advantage is a tendency to reduce competition between native and exotic species.   “Tall saplings are more often used for urban forestation, for CBA this presents an innovative approach for large-scale forest restoration. The idea emerged after we realized that competition for water, light, and nutrients with aggressive grasses such as brachiaria and molasses grass results in high mortality of smaller saplings. According to Professor Sebastião Venâncio Martins, taller saplings develop quickly, and their profound roots spread over a large area, absorbing water and nutrients more efficiently to enable their survival and development.   Efficacy and results So far over 90 thousand tall saplings have been planted in CBA’s Forest restorations in “Zona da Mata”. To assess the results, a first project analysis was performed by the Company and the UFV Forest Restoration Lab (LARF/UFV) in 2021, revealing excellent root development and rapid exploration of the soil around the planting hole. Analysis of tall sapling roots after 7 to 19 months of planting were as long as 65 cm in some species, with no limitations on their growth. These analyses demonstrate good development of tall sapling root systems, meaning they are better able to use fertilizer nutrients and withstand droughts compared to smaller saplings. The results of using taller saplings also reveal it will take less time to restore forests.   “Furthermore, tall saplings also attract birds, which in turn helps with the distribution of the seeds they carry and deposit, further maintaining and increasing the diversity of the restoration area. These benefits are partly result of the fact that several species of tall saplings flower and give fruit early, attracting animals from the very first months of planting, such as aroeirinha (Schinus terebinthifolius) and crindiúva (Trema micrantha), accelerating the restoration process,” added the Professor.   Planting and experiments with tall saplings are constantly monitored by a team hired by CBA and specialized in environmental monitoring. Some bioindicators are monitored by researchers at the UFV Forest Restoration Lab. Throughout the forest restoration process we issue progress reports for the environmental agencies, demonstrating how this technique has reduced the demand for replanting, with excellent health and survival rates, protecting the plants from pests and disease (phytosanitary measures).

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