Danielle Rappaport, MF

2011 TRI Fellow in Brazil

Using Rubber to Recover: Evaluating the Success of Enrichment Planting under the Shade of a Rubber Plantation in Southern Bahia, Brazil


My research explores the ecological dynamics of native species restoration when applied to a matrix of rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis) plantations in Bahia, Brazil. Enrichment planting is a strategy that is being tested in Southern Bahia as a means of reforesting aging rubber plantations to ultimately connect some of the very last remaining fragments of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest.  In this scheme, seedlings are planted in the shade of nurse rubber trees, which are thought to provide microclimates conducive to accelerated secondary succession. Scientists agree that any prospect for the long-term viability of the critically endangered Atlantic Rainforest depends on the success of large-scale restoration efforts. Yet, it is much less clear how to make forest restoration successful. Through my research, I intend to investigate that very question. Focusing on a set of 27 poorly understood native species that represent a diversity of successional guilds and values (i.e. habitat, timber, medicinal, etc.) I collected an extensive set of data on mortality, relative growth rates and growing conditions. During this upcoming academic year, I will subsequently take those data and run statistical analyses to evaluate how the different species perform across a spectrum of key environmental variables. In providing species-specific growth data, my hope is to produce an analysis that may provide practitioners with a better understanding of the microclimates required by each species. Such ecological information may then be applied to cost-benefit analyses that lay the groundwork for future restoration efforts.