Mapping to preserve
The union between companies and research institutions helps society to better understand the richness and biodiversity of different ecosystems
The richness, the diversity and the extent of the Amazon Forest impress mankind. It’s a sensation that grows stronger as we enter the heart of the jungle towards Petrobras’ Operations Base Pedro de Moura, in the region of Urucu. Located 650 km from Manaus, capital of Amazonas state, Urucu is home to a pioneering initiative in study and environmental conservation conducted by company’s employees in partnership with local researchers coming mainly from the Emilio Goeldi Research Museum (MPEG), the National Institute for Amazonian Research (Inpa) and the Federal University of Pará (UFPA). The environmental mapping includes the collection and study of specimens of wild fauna and flora and the organization of the obtained information. In addition to the strengthening of the relationship between Petrobras and the local population, the initiative leaves a legacy of knowledge about nature. This and other collaborative projects between companies and research institutions have helped society to understand better – and to preserve better – the richness and the biodiversity of such distinct regions as the Atlantic Forest, the Brazilian seacoast and the Strait of Magellan (Chile).
Petrobras contributes to the preservation of two areas where it maintains operations by studying the biodiversity and developing actions that go beyond the legal requirements determined by the Brazilian Institute of Environment (Ibama). In the Amazon, with the support of contracted native people (that guided the researchers through the trails around Urucu), the company has mapped and cataloged more than 200,000 plant species, many of which are preserved in the nursery at the base. The Mamíferos e Quelônios Marinhos (Marine Mammals and Turtles) project, also conducted by the company, covered the entire Brazilian coast. Between 2004 and 2006, several species of marine fauna were listed, with the technical support of the Baleia Jubarte Institute and the Tamar Institute, both non-governmental organizations sponsored by Petrobras. The work resulted in the registration of over 150 points of confirmed occurrence of those species on the coast. The data from the mapping work performed at the Amazon and the Brazilian coast was subsequently reunited on the internet on the Projeto Biomapas (Biomaps Project), which presents the mapped species using georeferencing tools, videos and photos.
Medium-sized snake which skin color ranges from yellow to orange. They live in forests and can be found in wound branches
The research done in the Amazon is part of Petrobras’ efforts to integrate itself to the local scenery, in a sustainable manner. “This shows the company’s effort to bring Urucu to society. The idea is to take care of nature, maintaining transparency in the process and preserving a link with the scientific research. (The mapping work) is an example of how industry can be an important partner of science in recovering and preserving degraded natural areas”, explains Sirayama Ferreira Lima, a biologist at the Petrobras Research Center (Cenpes) who is involved in the project since 2004. “Everything was recorded with scientific rigor, involving several teams and trackers – local people with empirical knowledge. They can identify where the species are located, and they also work in the recovery of the areas”.
In the Biomapas Project website, it is possible to find the exact location of the species of plants and animals distributed over Urucu
Jonas Moreira works in Urucu since 2000. He was one of the trackers who accompanied the research. Besides opening tracks, Jonas also collected seeds, helped to organize the inventory of the plants nursery and pointed out local names of plants and animals. “It was important to know whether the animals found here can also be spotted in other regions of the Amazon”, says Jonas. Born and raised in the region, the tracker had his curiosity aroused by contact with the scientists. “Gradually, I learned the scientific names of plants and animals, the different types of wood from the trees and gathered knowledge about other species. And I want to learn even more”. That is another aspect of the work done in Urucu: the training and professionalization of local labor, providing to the workers more knowledge about the region where they live.
This flower is abundant in dense forests on the mainland. Its color ranges from deep red to light pink, and it is pollinated by hummingbirds
From the forest to the ocean
With the Biomaps Project, Petrobras shares with society the valuable knowledge gained from the biodiversity mapping of regions such as the Amazon and the Brazilian coast. By using modern georeferencing techniques (satellite images and data are used to determine precise geographic coordinates), the website allows to view the mapped regions. Videos and texts also show the studied species. The obtained data is also available through a sticker album on Facebook. The Biomaps Project was appointed by the Brazilian Association of Business Communication (Aberje) as the best digital media project in 2011. “We are bringing together the biodiversity of the regions studied and the novelty of georeferencing. The site is dynamic, full of references and very playful”, says Sirayama Ferreira Lima, a biologist at the Petrobras Research Center (Cenpes).
In Brazil there are several partnerships between research institutions and companies, resulting in valuable surveys. Suzano Group, producer of cellulose and paper, sponsored the mapping of fauna and flora in regions such as the Neblinas’ Park (Mogi das Cruzes, state of São Paulo), which led to the regeneration of native forests. Cosmetics manufacturer Natura cooperates with institutions such as the Paulista State University (UNESP) and the Agronomic Institute of Campinas (both in the state of São Paulo) for the study, preservation and propagation of native plant species in the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest), also studying their potential use in cosmetics and skin products. Another cosmetics company, O Boticário, sponsors conservation projects based on threatened biomes such as the Salto Morato Natural Reserve (state of Paraná), where scientific research is being conducted, and the National Park of Serra do Cipó (Minas Gerais), which engages volunteers in revegetation projects.
Also in the Amazon, a NGO called Associação Amigos do Peixe-boi (Friends of the Manatee) - Ampa works for the preservation of aquatic mammals such as the Amazonian manatee, the red river porpoise and the tucuxi (grey river porpoise). The project is developed by Ampa in partnership with the Aquatic Mammals Laboratory (AML) at the National Institute of Amazon Research, with support from the Grupo Boticário Foundation. In addition to monitoring the quantities and movement of animals, Ampa promotes lectures on the environment and maintenance of wildlife. “We work on communities who live next to the rivers, alongside their students and teachers, who become multipliers in the struggle for preservation”, said Gália Mattos, coordinator of environmental education of Ampa.
Brazil’s hydric resources are also the focus of several mapping studies conducted or supported by companies. An example is the Costa Marinha (Sea Coast) phase of the Biomaps Project. Led by Petrobras, the initiative mapped the location of 16 species of dolphins, whales and turtles in various parts of the vast Brazilian coast. “To follow the turtles, we used a telemetry system. The animals are marked with transmitters that send us signals providing their geographical position”, explains Leandro Rodrigues, an oceanographer at Cenpes who has been accompanying the project since 2008. “The cetaceans – whales, porpoises and dolphins – are monitored via sighting: vessels follow the movement of animals, while biologists and oceanographers observe and record everything with photographs and videos”. The research is ongoing and the system is regularly fed with information every time a new phase is completed. Cenpes also coordinates the research of the Habitats – Environmental Heterogeneity in the Campos Basin, the largest project of environmental characterization in which Petrobras is involved. The idea is to consolidate a database about physical, chemical, geological and biological characteristics of the Campos Basin (located between the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo), encompassing an area of 100,000 square kilometers.
“Scientific research must work together with the private sector in favor of sustainable development and conservation. That is essential”, says Nadia Borghetti Boscardin, a biologist at the Integrated Group for Aquaculture and Environmental Studies (Federal University of Paraná) and coordinator of the Guarani Aquifer project. The initiative has mapped the Paraná Sedimentary Geological Basin, revealing details about one of the largest groundwater reservoirs in the world – the Guarani Aquifer, stretching across four countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay). Itaipu Binacional, the company which operates the hydroelectric plant of Itaipu (state of Paraná), sponsored the publication of a book on the research. “We’re helping to bring to society the academic knowledge about a very important issue”, said Jorge Salek, the Brazilian general director of Itaipu.
Found in several varieties of color and size, this cetacean can reach 2.35 meters in length. They usually move in groups
A cetacean that can weight up to 35 tons and reach 16 meters in length. It is found at Brazilian coast from Rio Grande do Sul to Ceará
HAWKSBILL SEA TURTLE
With its brown and yellow shell, this chelonian has a “hawk jaw” that enables it to search for food at the cracks in coral
Mapping other boundaries
Petrobras conducts, sponsors and supports environmental mapping projects in several countries where the company operates. This helps to bring a better understand of different ecosystems. In Peru, Petrobras has done extensive studies on biodiversity in the provinces of Cuzco and Talara, identifying native forests, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out by Petrobras was delivered to local and national authorities and may be viewed by the general public. In Angola, Kitabanga Project studies the behavior and natural habitat of sea turtles. Led by biologists from the Agostinho Neto University, Kitabanga was initiated in 2003, covering an area of 22 km between the villages of Palmeirinhas and Longa. It will expand its territory of research in 2012, involving another 12 km in the same region, at Kissembo and Bentiaba. Turtles were also the species chosen by the Corporación Autónoma del Magdalena (Corpomag), an environmental protection agency linked to the Ministry of Environment of Colombia. Petrobras participates in the initiative since 2006, which records the birth of pups and the conservation of the species and is based on the Tortugario del Acuario Mundo Marino (Santa Marta, Colombia’s Caribbean coast). The implementation of satellite tracking devices demonstrated the effectiveness of captive breeding and the successful reintegration of the turtles in their natural habitat, increasing by 80% the chances of survival of the endangered species. In Chile, the Biomar Foundation held in 2010 and 2011 a study on humpback whales, determining the distribution of cetaceans at the Protected Sea Coastal Area of Francisco Coloane, in the Strait of Magellan, (southern coast of Chile). The Foundation (along with Petrobras) published in December 2011 a book compiling the results of the survey.
By: Marco Antonio Barbosa e Andréia Gomes Durão
Photos: André Motta de Souza, André Valentim and Geraldo Falcão (Petrobras Image Bank), M.C. dos Santos-Costa, Tamar-Ibama Project Image Bank
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