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Uruguay

Nuevo Berlin

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Conservation benefit: Mapping of invasive trees on riverine islands; environmental education

Community benefit: Honey-extracting equipment, GPS

Date Approved: 02.2018

River/Lake

This project protects freshwater habitat around a river or lake.

Our first Uruguay project will help protect the Filomena Islands (Big and Small), in the Uruguay River, on the border with Argentina. The area that surrounds them, the Farrapos Lagoons and Islands of the Uruguay River, has been designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance. The wetlands help prevent floods and maintain water quality. They also provide habitat for native plants and animals, including threatened and endangered species.

Invasive tree species, however, threaten the islands’ biodiversity. The invaders shade and out-compete many native species, changing the physical and ecological structure of the forest.

Many residents of nearby Nuevo Berlin, a town founded by German farmers in the 1850s, make a subsistence living by fishing and beekeeping. They keep bees on the islands and have deep knowledge of the forest there. But as invasive trees expand their range on the islands, a narrower selection of plants is available to the bees.

The government rangers assigned to the wetland area are making plans to remove the invasive trees. Community members will help by mapping the islands and identifying invasive trees. Beekeepers will lead the effort, using GPS equipment and a computer bought with the Seacology grant. This will help the rangers act quickly, which is important because the invasive trees are spreading quickly. The rangers will also build community awareness about the threat of invasive species.

Community members will use a Seacology grant to buy honey-extracting equipment to increase their profits in a sustainable way. With this equipment, then can produce the higher-quality honey that resellers are looking for. They are also trying to certify their honey as organic, which is easier when honey comes from a protected area.

Project Updates

December 2019

This project wrapped up successfully in October. The removal of invasive species is continuing, using the maps created by the beekeepers. The beekeepers are using the honey-extracting equipment to improve their livelihoods. They have also conducted workshops to share the achievements of the project with local high school students.

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May 2019

Seacology Executive Director Duane Silverstein toured Nuevo Berlin in April with Seacology field representative Cecilia Suárez, and reports that the beekeepers are playing a very valuable role in removing invasive trees from the islands. The beekeepers, after getting training last fall, have made sophisticated maps with the GPS coordinates (and other significant data) for each invasive tree. These data went to a government scientist, who joined Duane and Cecilia for the first presentation of the maps. Because the beekeepers know the islands better than anyone, and because park personnel are stretched thin, the maps will be of great help. The head of the Uruguay system of protected areas also attended the meeting with Duane and Cecilia—further evidence of how important this project is. Duane and Cecilia were also interviewed on local television.

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December 2018

The honey-extracting equipment has been installed in a building the beekeepers built, on land provided by the local government. The facility was inaugurated in September 2018 with a full-day workshop for beekeepers and local authorities, which began with a walk in the protected area. In October, beekeepers learned how to use GPS equipment to make maps of the islands and planned how they would cover the island and map invasive plant species for removal. They planned to go to the islands in late December 2018 to continue mapping and gathering data.

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May 2018

Mapping is expected to begin in June, after a training session to teach community members how to efficiently build a map showing invasive, nonnative trees. Meanwhile, the beekeepers have ordered the honey-extracting equipment, and the local government has provided a spot for it. When the agreement with the government was signed, the deal made the local news.

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