Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Life Sustainable Laurel Forest presents its resultes in a national Seminary

The Life Sustainable Laurel Forest project, coordinated by SPEA in partnership with the Regional Secretariat of the Environment and the Sea and with the City Council of Povoação, presented part of the work carried through in Serra  da Tronqueira and Planalto dos Graminhais in the seminary “Conservation of Habitats authochthonous and control of invading exotic species” that was held until last sunday in Luso, Mealhada.

This seminary organized by the Mata do Buçado Foundation (FMB), in the scope of the LIFE BRIGHT, had as objective to commemorate the Authochthonous Forest Day and joined representatives of some of the main projects for the natural recovery of habitats and control of vegetal species of exotic invaders taking place in the Portuguese territory.

Joaquim Teodósio, the LIFE coordinator, presented two sources of the work done. In the first day a boarding on the different functions that the greenhouse plays, where, besides the production of plants for the recovery of the habitats, if it approached the component of spreading and support to the schools (mainly of the EBS of Povoação), volunteering and the tourism and the economic and landscape value of the species from the original forest of the Azores.
On the second day, it was presented the work carried through since 2003 in the recovery of the natural habitats of Serra da Tronqueira and Planalto dos Graminhais, namely the Laurel Foresta and the peatbogs. This work has passed through an extended control of diverse exotic invading flora species. The good results and the dimension of the work with about 350 ha of habitats recovered were the two factors highlited by some of the participants of this seminary.

Throughout the Seminary it were presented results from other works carried through in Portugal, aiming the control of invading vegetal species as the Acacia Wood and the sugar cane that threaten many of the natural forest areas of Portugal. The FMB also presented the work of LIFE Bright Project, taking place in Mata do Buçado for recovery of the Adernal, an old and rare forest, threatened by the proliferation of Acacia's wood and the Australian Cheesewood. It was also possible to visit some of the interventioned areas of this project.

From the part of the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest we are greatful for the invitation and shelter on the part of the FMB, as well as the congratulations for this excellent initiative.
To know more about this seminary and the subjects treated visit HERE.

Monday, 26 November 2012

SPEA celebrates the Authochthonous Forest Day with three schools of São Miguel island

In the scope of the celebrations of the Authochthonous Forest  Day, day 23 of November, SPEA, through the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project and of the Priolo's Environmental Center (CAP), organized three activities with the Basic and Secundary School of Nordeste and Povoação and the school Antero de Quental in Ponta Delgada.

On November 21st the SPEA technicians were in Basic and Secondary School of Nordeste to do the activity “The Discovery of the Laurel Forest”. This activity counted with the participation of 22 students, which had the chance to visit the Pelado viewpoint, in Nordeste and CAP, to be able to see diverse types of vegetation, specially the original Azorian forest, the Laurel Forest.

On the november 22nd, the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest technicians were with 15 students of Povoação to make a native species plantation. This plantation took place in the Basic School of Lomba do Pomar where these students had the chance of planting, in the school garden, 38 plants, between Picconia, Azorean Holly, Buckthorn, Cape Myrtle, Azorian Heather and Azores Harebell.

In the following day, the 23rd, the LIFE+ technicians took 7 students from the Basic and Secondary School of Povoação, and 6 teachers, for one of the intervention zones of the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, the Labaçal in Serra da Tronqueira. They planted 323 plants with only 7 enthusiastic students and their teachers in a space of little more than a hour and a half. The planted species were the Laurel, the Buckthorn and the Picconia. To end this activity they visites project's greenhouse in Lomba do Loução.

On the same day, the CAP technicians went to the school Antero de Quental in Ponta Delgada, where they carried through a lecture with about 100 students to speak about the Priolo, the forest and the threats that he faces currently. After this lecture, during the afternoon, they carried through a plantation of native plants, among which Picconia, Azorean Holly, Azorean Heather, Cape Myrtle, Azores Harebell, Common Heather and Buckthorn.

We are thankful to the schools, its teachers and especially the students for the demonstrated enthusiasm and interest in these activities. 

Next year there's more!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Collecting seeds in Pico Bartolomeu with many participants

It took place last Saturday, November 10, in Pico Bartolomeu, another activity of collecting seeds. This activity was organized by SPEA within the activities of the Priolo's Environmental Center and the Sustainable Laurel Life Project, and was attended by 25 participants, who gathered throughout the morning seeds for the production of native and endemic plants in the greenhouse of the Laurel Life Project.

Collecting seeds is extremely important to the recovery of the Laurel Forest. The project's greenhouse produces native and endemic plants which are then planted in the intervention areas for the removal of invasive alien species in the SPA Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme, and this is only possible with the annual collection of seeds of various species of the flora of the Azores that will be treated and then planted to germinate.

On Saturday morning, the 25 participants, including a group of Scouts Explorers group 720 of Nordeste and a group of seven friends, that after meeting in the Priolo's Environmental Center, in Forest Park of Cancela do Cinzeiro, went to Pico Bartolomeu, where with the help of the SPEA technicians could collect seeds of native plants that are found there.

The last stop was in the greenhouse project, located on the main road of Lomba do Loução , Povoação, where all participants were able to see firsthand the results of seed last year and got to know a little more about running a nursery and the work required for the plants to grow strong!

Thanks to everyone for participating!

More bird species registered in Graminhais

The Sustainable Laurel Life Project has developed various recovery actions in the peat bogs plateau of Graminhais. In last September, the larger scale work started in the summer of 2011, was finished. These works included, among others, dike construction and the closure of the drainage ditches to recover the water level in that area.

With the beggining of the autumn and the rain that have occurred, we can already see a significant water levea in the dikes of Graminhais. The various ponds constructed to hold water in this wetland, also enable a suitable habitat for many migratory species that pass through the Azores.

Snow Bunting  (Plectrophenax nivalis)

On 7 November, the SPEA team was in Graminhais to do monitorization and managed to observe several individuals of two species of migratory birds:

6 Snow Bunting  (Plectrophenax nivalis)
12 Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)

Some of the resident birds that can be observed at the site are:

Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina)
Atlantic canary (Serinus canaria)
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
Azores Blackbird (Turdus merula azorensis)
Azores Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs moreletti)
Azores Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla atlantis)
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea patriciae)

The Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) and the common-Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) apparently had an increase in the Graminhais plateau, possibly reflecting the work done by the Sustainable Laurel Life Project and the fact that the hunting was banned in this area.

Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)

External auditor visited the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project

This week, from the 22nd to the 24th of October, the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project was visited by João Salgado, the representative of the external monitoring team from the LIFE program in Portugal. This visit was to see, firsthand, all the work that has been developed for this project in SPA Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme and the Planalto dos Graminhais.

João Salgado, along with the project team, was on Monday morning at the Planalto dos Graminhais, and had the opportunity to see a soggier peatbog the result of work started in 2011 and finished this year. A little throughout the area it was possible to see the tufts in its entire splendor, even in areas with greater intervention! He also had the opportunity to see and try the new access rail to Pico da Vara, which goes through an important natural habitat!

Besides this visit to Graminhais, the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project  team took João Salgado to some of the intervened areas in the project, such as Labaçal in Tronqueira, where it was possible to see the results with the control of exotic plants and the recovery of Laurel Forest in the site.

The visit also took place in the Malhada, one of the areas in higher altitude, with work still ongoing, and the Mata dos Bispos, an area where we only recently started the intervention and being, in all areas intervened for the project, the one that has the more typical low / medium altitude Laurel Forest.

In addition to the areas of intervention, João Salgado visited the orchard of Azores Blueberry in Furnas and the project’s Greenhouse in the Lomba do Loução, who produce all native plants that are planted in the intervention areas.

This annual visit results in a report to the LIFE European Commission's Unit that will allow them to realize the project's progress and all actions undertaken so far, at a crucial time as it is near its end.

The "Lands of Priolo" CETS Award on the Birdlife and the LIFE + website

The Azores saw valued the tourist offer for those seeking nature and quality services in the Lands of Priolo, covering the Municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação. The Executive Council of the Federation EUROPARC awarded the prize of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism candidacy to the "Lands of Priolo."

This is the first award of EUROPARC in the Portuguese island territory and is also one of the great landmarks of Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project. 

Since this is an important event, Birdlife International published in their official website a report on the award of the prize of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism to "Lands of Priolo," Municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação. The LIFE program also outlined this important event, highlighting this award on their official website.

If you want to read the news on the Birdlife website, visit HERE.

To read the news on the LIFE+ program website, visit HERE.

You can also see the video of the public announcement of the CETS award being given to “Lands of Priolo”, held on September 17 at Monitoring and Research Center of Furnas (CMIF) in the presence of the Regional Director for the Environment, João Bettencourt, the SPEA’s Executive Director, Luis Costa, among other entities and entrepreneurs involved in the process, HERE!

Endemic plantation in Graminhais

On the 20th of October SPEA, through the Priolo’s Environmental Center and under the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, organizes an activity of planting native and endemic in Graminhais. The meeting point will be at Ribeira dos Caldeirões, in Achada of Nordeste, at 9:30am.

This activity has the purpose of giving participants the opportunity to get to know an important and rare habitat in Azores, the peatbogs, and the actions undertaken in this area by Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, for their conservation.

Furthermore, this activity also aims to promote native and endemic plants that are part of the Azores natural forest, the Laurel Forest, and that also promotes the restoration of the peatbogs. Participants may assist in planting many of these plants produced in the greenhouse of LIFE.

Participate in this activity and contribute to the preservation of one of the most threatened natural habitats of the Azores, the Peatbogs of the Planalto dos Graminhais.

This activity is free, and the number of vacancies of 12 people but with mandatory registration through the website http://centropriolo.spea.pt

The Priolo’s Environmental Center School Program just begun

The Priolo’s Environmental Center (CAP), with the support of Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project launched its school program for the academic year 2012/2013. This program, already running since 2008, aims to complement the educational program of the schools or institutions that aspire to bring the youth of the island of São Miguel to key natural values of the island, including the Laurel Forest and Avifauna.

This program has several educational activities and has been having a growing request by teachers from various institutions of this island. In the previous year, CAP has worked with 17 schools distributed among six municipalities of the island of São Miguel, motivating and educating over 2800 students.

In the year 2012/2013, teachers can choose between 6 different activities plans that also include training for teachers who wish to increase their knowledge of birdlife, flora and conservation of the natural heritage of the Azores. The major change of this program is the increased collaboration with Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, developing conservation actions in Laurel Forest and in the Azores’s peatbogs (two endangered habitats and priority of the archipelago), by including activities in nursery production endemic plants of this project.

The CAP has another online tool that can be used by teachers to supplement the training of their students. The site "One Forest, one Future" can be found through the link http://umaflorestaumfuturo.spea.pt/ and offers an area for teachers, where they can be downloaded learning materials and games for students between 6-10 and 11-14 years.

Get to know the Priolo’s Environmental Center school program in http://centropriolo.spea.pt/pt/escolas/ and schedule your activity throught the number +351 91 8 536 123.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Program Biologia no Verão with positive balance

The Biologia no Verão program ended on September 15th. Since July that SPEA has developed several activities under this program, with a very positive final balance, with about 94 participants in organized activities over the past two months.

The first year of participation in the SPEA Biologia no Verão program was in 2009. Since then that SPEA has been maintaining this partnership by organizing various activities every summer all over the country.

In the case of the Azores, through the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project  and the Priolo’s Environmental Center, activities took place in the municipality of Nordeste and Povoação. Thus, the SPEA organized five different types of activities, a total of 17 sessions and attended by 94 people.

The activity "Priolo – a Tronqueira Treasure" was performed 4 times, with a total of 34 participants. The activity consists of a journey undertaken on the Tronqueira road in order to observe and visit Priolos in their natural habitat - the laurel forest, also getting to know a little bit more about the threats and conservation actions developed. Participants also have the opportunity to visit the Priolo’s Environmental Center.

On what concerns to the activity "From Seed to Plant", it took place every Friday, with 9 sessions with a total of 21 participants. This activity consists on a guided tour to the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project nursery of endemic and native plants of Azores with an explanation of all the stages of the production of these plants.

There was also an activity dedicated to the peatlands of Graminhais. This is a rare and considered a priority habitat and is already very scarce and decay on the island of São Miguel, Azores. In a visit to the Graminhais Plateau, located in Special Protection Area Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme (SPA) participants had the opportunity of getting to know this habitat, its characteristics, particularities and the importance of its conservation. They also had the opportunity to go on a small trail in which they can observe the recovery actions in the area carried out by the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project . "Meet the peatbogs", had a total of 2 sessions and 12 participants. Unfortunately this is an area with bad weather which motivated several dropouts.

The activity "Get to know a conservation project," was performed once and had 15 participants. This activity is a guided tour to the conservation actions undertaken by the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project  in Serra Tronqueira and the Plateau of Graminhais and seeks to present the major conservation actions undertaken to date in two priority habitats in the Azores (Laurel Forest and peatbogs).

One of the activities that SPEA performs more times throughout the year is "Keep an eye on the birds", within the Biologia no Verão program, was performed once with a total of 12 participants and took place at the Lagoa das Furnas. This activity is based on the observation of birds in fixed point, where participants have at their disposal some optics material (binoculars and telescope), as well as didactic material (bird guides), being assisted by a technician in identifying bird species that are observe, throughout the duration of the activity.

The Biologia no Verão program allows everyone to get to know some of the flora and fauna around them and have greater contact with nature. For SPEA the results were very positive in the summer of 2012 and we count on you next year.

Census of Priolo juvenile taking place until the end of the month

It is taking place since September 8th the census of Priolo juvenile. This census is held annually on 20 transects in all SPA Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme, except for one which is in Pico da Areia, Furnas. This census is extremely important to follow the evolution of this endangered endemic species.

The census recruitment of juvenile Priolo, Pyrrhula murine, is being performed during the month of September 2012 and aims to compare the results with those of previous years. This measure of population monitoring was held annually from 2006 to 2008, under the LIFE Priolo Project. After a year of interregnum it was possible to conduct this census back in 2010 through the Preventing Extinctions Program and again after a year of interregnum, will be held again, this time by Rúben Coelho trainee of the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project.

The census of juveniles is done through "visual capture" of Priolos on 20 transects conducted on foot, in the area of distribution of the species, from the 8 to the 30th of September. Each transect will be performed twice, with an break of approximately 10 days and at different periods: morning from 7:00am to 12:00am and afternoon from 3:00pm to 7:00pm. The Priolos observed were distinguished between juveniles and adults and the results were analyzed in the same way. During the transect it was seen the registers of feeding and the presence of color bands on the Priolos.

This census is of utmost importance since it allows, not only comparing the results with previous years, thus obtaining an estimate of the number of juveniles, but also the evolution of Priolo in recent years.

Let’s hope the weather cooperates!

Bulldozer returns to Graminhais

After the work done in the Graminhais in the summer of 2011, in September the latest works were performed with the use of a machine, building dikes and drainage ditches enclosing the old roads to aid on the recovery of the peatbogs.

 The intervention was carried out over two weeks in the area that hadn’t had work done last year, since it is a very large area and the climatic conditions are adverse most days.

The work took only two weeks, since much of the process was done last year. It’s already possible to see some results in that area after the intervention, with the peatbogs retaining some water that was previously carried by drainage ditches and paths accentuating its erosion and reducing water retention in the peatbogs.

Priolo, a treasure in the fog

On Saturday, September 1st, we organized another visit to the SPA Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme in order to watch Priolos and get to know better the conservation actions that has been developed to his conservation and his habitat.

The day was cloudy, what made it difficult to watch Priolos on the first morning hours. We went through the Tronqueira road to the sightseeing in the middle of the fog, and even getting to hear a few Priolos, but also with many difficulties to see them. Meanwhile, the participants got to know some of the Laurel Forest plants, saw the signs of the Priolo feeding on the Azorean Blueberry and saw different recovery actions on the Laurel Forest in Serra da Tronqueira.

The road cut, because of a landslide, made us take a big redirecting to get to the Labaçal area, already on the Povoação’s side. In this area, more recently interventioned and already with no fog, we got to see some Priolos and we could see up close the conservation work done here.

The activity ended with a guided tour to Priolo’s Environmental Center and with marking the Priolos observations in the new sighting placard. Once again, and despite the weather conditions, the activity took place with tranquility and it was possible to see Priolos.

The activity “Get to Know the Peatbogs” took 12 people to Graminhais

On the August 18th, SPEA, through the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project and the Ciência Viva program, organized the activity “Get to know the Peatbogs”, with the intention of showing the work done to recover the peatbogs, developed by the Life Laurel Forest in the Planalto dos Graminhais, and the importance of this natural habitat to the populations.

The tour started at 9.30am in Ribeira dos Caldeirões, Achada, following to the Graminhais Plateau. The tour begun with a little rain, but ever it got quite pleasant allowing all the participants to enjoy properly the involving environment.

To starters, SPEA’s technician responsible for the work developed in Graminhais, Rui Botelho, give a little introduction about the importance of preserving this habitat, on what concerns to its value as a natural habitat, but also as a drinking water resource.

It was interesting to understand that most visitants didn’t know that this natural habitat, the peatbogs, existed in Azores and that they contribute in an active way to our well being.

The visitants had also the opportunity to get to know some natural vegetation from this area, but besides that, they also encountered some exotic species that are a threat to this habitat.

 Chilean Rhubarb (exotic species)

The tour ended it was past 1.30pm and all the participants were very satisfied not only with the work done until that moment in that area, but also with everything they learned.

The Priolo and the Azorean Blueberry

In the last few days whoever visits Serra da Tronqueira had the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful landscapes of this region, but also to see the natural forest in all its splendor. In the areas recovered over the past years, the Azorean Holly, the Lily of the Valley Tree and the Azorean Blueberry are growing and developing very well.

A clear example is the Azorean Blueberry who in the areas that are no longer endangered by the exotic species, such as ginger Lily or the Australian Cheesewood, shows a fast growth and large fruit quantities that in only a few weeks will ripen and give a new color to these plants.

Who doesn’t want to wait any longer are the Priolos! Even with the ripe berries it’s been frequent to see birds feeding from the Azorean Blueberry! And we can already start seeing the first  Priolo juveniles from this year. Look out for the Priolos with brown head.

"From the seed to the plant" - guided tour to the greenhouse

Since the 15th of July that has been taking place the program Ciência Viva which SPEA is a partner and organizes various activities for those who want greater contact with nature. Thus, every friday, the greenhouse of the Life Sustainable Laurel Forest Project, in Povoação, have been receiving many visitors.

On August 3rd, the greenhouse received a family, who came to Povoação to learn a little bit more about how the native plants are produced and which plants belongs to the original Azorean forest, the Laurel Forest.

These 4 visitors were accompanied by SPEA’s technician in charge of the work in the nurseries of the project, Filipe Figueiredo. During this visit, the family had the opportunity to meet not only the greenhouse, the flower beds and nursery, but also to learn about the entire process required to build plants in nurseries, from harvesting seeds to placing them in pots, the time that it takes to each species to germinate and process of changing plants for the greenhouse to the nurseries, and later to the areas of intervention.

Among questions and curiosities, these 4 visitors left the greenhouse, getting to know better the plants of the Laurel Forest, their needs and they even took as a gift a Azorean Belt Flower.

Next week there's more!

Graminhais visited by Scouts of Ponta Delgada

On wednesday, 1st of August, the Plateau of Graminhais was visited by members of the Grouping No. 80 of Scouts of Ponta Delgada. This group came to learn about the restoration work on the peatbogs of Graminhais Plateau, and besides that they had the opportunity to help, throughout a voluntary action.

Before starting the work, the group heard a brief explanation given by the SPEA’s technician responsible for the work in this area, Rui Botelho. They got to know a little bit more about this still little-known habitat, typical vegetation of these habitats, the threats to which they are subject and its importance as a water reserve, as well as the work being undertaken towards its recovery.

After that they started working by collection tufts (Sphagnum spp.), structural species of this type of habitats, and its inoculation in some water basins constructed along the rail.

It was also carried out some native plants plantation in two areas of the Plateau of Graminhais, in a total of 125 plants of the following species: Azorean blueberry,  Common Heath and Azorean Juniper. The level of rain and humidity in Graminhais throughout the year allows plantation in this time of the year. Of course the choice of sites is critical to the success of these actions.

After a day well spent, in which  the sun showed the air of his grace, it was promised that these scouts would return to Graminhais, this time with more Scouts to assist and learn a bit more about this important habitat.

We are waiting for you! See you soon and thank you!