Creating a comprehensive inventory of the species at REGUA seems relatively easy, but the inaccessibility of much of the terrain and the secretive nature of many species make it difficult to survey even the most obvious of groups, such as birds. After over twenty years of regular visits by experienced bird watchers, new species are still being found in the Reserve, and there may be another 30 high altitude species yet to be discovered in the mountainous areas. Although visitors can contribute with important records of the local fauna, the job of looking for and identifying bats, amphibians, reptiles, insects and plants is essentially the responsibility of professional researchers and university students who are now regular visitors to REGUA.
REGUA has always endeavoured to strengthen working relationships with Research and Education institutions.
The Reserve provides a safe environment with high quality habitats for conducting studies, as well as affordable accommodation and meals, and logistical support. When work is complete, REGUA obtains the results and published data of the work carried out, which improves the understanding of the environment and the biodiversity it is protecting.
Researchers setting up a camera trap - © REGUA
In 2001 the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro carried out the first scientific research in REGUA - after some preliminary bird inventories had led to the establishment of the Reserve - carrying out an inventory of arachnids and fish. Although no new species for Science were discovered in this initial research programme, it did confirm the high quality of biodiversity in the forests of the region, marking the Reserve as a suitable place for future research.
URFJ researchers carrying out Limnology studies - © REGUA
In 2002, a cooperation agreement was signed with the Maria Teresa University of Niterói (FAMATh) and the University of Serra dos Órgãos (FESO) in Teresópolis. Over two years, REGUA hosted more than 20 students of Biology and Veterinary Sciences (Departamento de Fauna Silvestre) who helped to compile an inventory of animal species using basic and inexpensive field methods such as traps and cameras, mist nets and observation walks. The final results were published in two theses with lists of species and their geographical distribution. With the creation of PETP, REGUA signed its first cooperation agreement with INEA (at the time the Instituto Estadual de Florestas (IEF)), allowing the continuation of all research in the reserve.
FIOCRUZ researchers studying the bat population - © REGUA
In 2003, Eduardo Rubião joined the REGUA team to coordinate the research, which proved to be fundamental in establishing the network of trails and training forest rangers in basic monitoring work. Also in 2003, the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), together with the BIOMAS Institute, carried out the first surveys of amphibians and reptiles at REGUA.
In 2003-04, REGUA invited Brazilian ornithologist Dr. Fábio Olmos to carry out a survey of all the bird species present in the Reserve. This study confirmed that REGUA met Birdlife Brazil's criteria to be listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) with an extensive list of endemic, rare or endangered birds. This research also helped to promote REGUA as an excellent potential site for the reintroduction of Red-billed Curassow (Crax blumenbachii) in the state of Rio.
UERJ researchers carrying out Limnology studies - © REGUA
In 2005, the wetland area at the former São José Farm was restored, providing Professor Tim Moulton from UERJ with an excellent opportunity to monitor and research the evolution and changes in Ecology along with aquatic metabolism, including conductivity, temperature, pH, water concentration, and oxygen. The survey also found that during this period there was an increase in the number of species of Ephemeroptera, Odonata and Hemiptera.
Between 2006-07, Southern Muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides) monitoring projects began at REGUA. André Lanna, from UFRJ, found a population and was able to make several good observations that resulted in one of the first published scientific articles about the reserve in 2007. In the journal Neotropical Primates: Additional sightings of the muriqui population (Brachyteles arachnoides Geoffroy, 1806) in the Ecological Reserve of Guapiaçu – REGUA, Cachoeiras de Macacu – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Muriqui was found to be abundant throughout the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, but is now listed as endangered by IUCN criteria and is believed to number less than 1,000 individuals in this biome.
English researcher monitoring birds - © REGUA
Between 2007 and 2011, REGUA's reputation continued to grow in academia, having received an average of three new research projects per year, and three new institutions (UNIFESO Centro Universitário Serra dos Órgãos; Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) and Universidade de Leipzig ) went on to study at REGUA. Most of these studies have focused on the vertebrate fauna (mainly herpetology and ornithology), with a single study on palm trees and another on valley geomorphology.
From 2012 onwards, there was an explosion in demand for professional courses, such as Selvagem em Foco (Wild in Focus), which continues to this day, and field courses at different universities. FIOCRUZ also began carrying out field activities at REGUA. It is interesting to note that the variety of subjects researched expanded to the fauna of freshwater fish, arthropods (spiders, beetles, butterflies, ants, flies, mosquitoes and dragonflies), botany (Melastomataceae, bromeliads and other epiphytes), ecology of reforestation ecotones (transition between biological communities) on permanent plots around wetlands, carbon-based studies and even projects in sociology (the impact of private nature reserves on local communities).
UERJ doctoral student analyzing her field sample - © REGUA
Other researchers began to carry out their research projects here, such as the Mantis Project students who specialized in praying mantis ecology, students who contribute to the PELD - The Long Term Ecological Research Programme, researchers at the Forest Ecology Laboratory ( LEF) / UNIRIO, and researchers from the Laboratory of Research and Studies in Reforestation (LAPER), at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ).
In addition to several articles published in periodicals and magazines, guides were also published, such as the publication Serra do Órgãos - its history and its orchids, from 2006, the guide to the identification of hawkmoths (Sphingidae) of the Serra do Órgãos, published in 2011, and two other books on Odonata and Birds, which were published in 2015. In 2020, the guide to Butterflies of Serra dos Órgãos was launched, as well as the second edition of the guide to identifying birds of Southeastern Brazil.
UERJ researchers conducting amphibian ecology studies - © REGUA
Biodiversity at REGUA
The Atlantic Forest is one of the five main biodiversity hotspots on Earth. Paleoenvironmental studies indicate that the Atlantic Forest was once contiguous with the Amazon, having separated during the Tertiary period, when a progressively more arid climate allowed the Caatinga, Cerrado and Pantanal - dominated by open herbaceous vegetation, drier and scrub formed a formidable barrier between the two great forests. Although the occurrence of wetter periods in the recent Late Pleistocene and Holocene allowed the establishment of forest corridors between the Atlantic Forest and the Amazon, for tens of thousands of years the Atlantic Forest evolved largely in complete geographic isolation. Coupled with a vast latitudinal distribution and wide altitudinal range due to the region's mountainous topography, geographic isolation has produced a rich biodiversity, with an exceptionally high level of endemism. The degree of Endemism of the Flora and Fauna of the Atlantic Forest is around 50%, but reaches 90% for some types of organisms. Bio-inventories at REGUA have shown that, with its continuous forest cover, ranging from the lowland rainforest to the mountain mists at 2,000 meters above sea level, wetlands, rivers, pastures and agricultural fields, REGUA is a important area of the Atlantic Forest for biodiversity and an area of high conservation priority.
456 species of amphibians are found in the Atlantic Forest, of which 282 (62%) are endemic to the
biome. 73 species have been registered in REGUA to date.
58 species of arachnid have been identified in REGUA, including 48 spiders (Arachnida), eight harvestmen (Opiliones) and two species of scorpion (Scorpiones).
682 bird species occur in the Atlantic Forest, and 199 (29%) of these are endemic to the Atlantic Forest. More than 470 species have been found to date at REGUA.
2,120 butterfly species have been recorded for the Atlantic Forest. Of these, around 430 species have been found in REGUA to date.
Dragonflies and damselflies
REGUA is home to more species of Odonata than anywhere else in the Atlantic Forest, with 204 species registered so far.
The Atlantic Forest has a total of 264 recorded species of mammals; of which 72 (27%) are endemic to the biome, as well as 80% of primate species. In REGUA a total of 61 species have been registered to date.
There is clearly a huge diversity of moths at REGUA and so far 158 species have been recorded, including 76 species of hawkmoth.
A total of 97 orchid species belonging to 51 genera have been identified in REGUA. 44 of these species are new records for the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu.
About 311 species of reptiles occur in the Atlantic Forest, with 94 (30%) of them being endemic to the region. 42 species have been recorded in REGUA to date.