Five success stories from 2022

Image © CORAP

By |2023-01-10T14:58:01+00:00December 21st, 2022|Ailan Awareness, and Inclusion, Biocultural Diversity, Congo Basin, Conservation Optimism, CORAP, Hydropower, Instituto Biotrópicos, MUPAN, Rivers|Comments Off on Five success stories from 2022

With the UN  Convention on Biological Diversity’s new agreement dominating conservation headlines, it can be easy to lose sight of the people working every day to protect our planet’s biodiversity on the ground.

However, throughout 2022, our partners restored ecosystems, protected endangered species, and collaborated with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to build a better future for all life on earth. Their stories may not always make the front page, but we’re thrilled to share a few of them with you.

Two new mothers come together to protect amphibians in Brazil’s unique Espinhaço Mountains

A dark image with bromeliad leaves lit by a torch to reveal a tiny grey frog

Crossodactylodes peers out from its bromeliad home. Image © Daniela Barcelos.

The highest reaches of Brazil’s Espinhaço mountains are home to an entirely unique ecosystem. More than a quarter of the amphibians who live in these alpine peaks can be found nowhere else on earth. When our partner Instituto Biotrópicos kickstarted their Amphibian Programme, they chose to focus on Crossodactylodes: a group of tiny, bromeliad-dwelling frogs.

Project leader Izabela Barata is an expert on the genus. When she took maternity leave earlier this year, the flexibility of our funding enabled her to hire a fire management expert, Elisa Paschoal, to study the impacts of fire on the bromeliad frogs’ native landscape. Elisa also happened to be a new mother, with this being her first role following her own maternity leave. Her research revealed that major fires caused by arson were a serious threat to the species. However, she also found that careful, proscribed burns could protect the ecosystem by reducing the ferocity of fires caused by arson.

Now, Izabela and Elisa are working with local people to learn how they view their relationships with the environment, and how they use and understand fire. Elisa’s findings proved that proscribed burns could help to protect bromeliad frogs and their extraordinary ecosystem. With the support of local communities and Indigenous Peoples, Instituto Biotrópicos will be able to translate her research into conservation action.

This year, Izabela and Elisa also trained two park rangers in amphibian monitoring, and established two monitoring programmes in the mountain range. These new programmes will help Instituto Biotrópicos gather in-depth knowledge of where the frogs live and how they relate to the broader ecosystem. That knowledge can then inform management guides for the conservation area, to ensure bromeliad frogs survive and thrive.

A woman kneeling underneath a starry sky examining bromeliad plants with a torch.

Izabela looks for frogs in Espinhaço’s high-altitude bromeliads. Image: © Michel Becheleni.

A growing movement seeks to prevent the largest hydroelectric project in the world

Recent years have seen a major push for energy development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most famously, the planned Inga 3 Dam would be the largest hydroelectric project in the world. Should the project go ahead, it would prove extremely destructive to both freshwater species and local communities.

The dam will displace an estimated 37,000 people, while 90 per cent of the Congolese population will have no access to the energy it generates.

It will also prove catastrophic for fish populations in the Congo river, and encourage deforestation in the Congo Basin—harming biodiversity while impoverishing communities who rely on these ecosystems.

Local opposition to Inga 3 and exploitative energy policy is gaining momentum. This year, we provided our first grant to CORAP (Coalition of Civil Soc