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Reforestation Project "Araponga" in Brazil

Pernambuco (also known as Pau-Brasil, botanically Paubrasilia echinata) is the wood which was and is used for the the majority of bows for stringed instruments. It grows exclusively in Brazil's Atlantic rain forest. For decades, the Brazilian national tree has been considered an endangered species. As such, it is classified as endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN) and listed in Appendix II/Appendix B of CITES . In 2022, Brazil once again drew international attention to the high level of threat to this tree species. Eben!Holz e.V. saw this as an urgent appeal for action.

Eben!Holz e.V. and Orchester des Wandels have therefore joined the long-standing efforts of SAVE Brasil to preserve the Atlantic rain forest in north-east Brazil and are financing the "Araponga" reforestation project. The Mata Atlântica, the Brazilian name for this tropical forest along the Atlantic coast, is under severe attack. Only between 7 and 16 % of the original area of the forest remains today.

Map of Brazil showing the original expansion of the Atlantic rainforest, its shrinking and its current area.
Source: SOS Mata Atlântica

SAVE Brasil is the Brazilian national organisation of BirdLife International, which fights the extinction of endangered bird species worldwide. The non-profit Brazilian organisation sees its mission in protecting endangered birds and their habitats and connecting people with nature.

SAVE Brasil has been involved in two important forest fragments of the Atlantic rainforest for over 20 years. Serra do Urubu and Murici are these two priority remnants of Atlantic Forest in Northeastern Brazil found 100 km apart, with only a few small forest patches between them. In Serra do Urubu, SAVE Brasil has succeeded in establishing a private reserve and kicking off a conservation project.

Serra do Urubu - Murici Landscape, highlighting the priority areas for the project

This project’s overall goal is to secure biodiversity conservation of the Serra do Urubu – Murici Landscape by protecting and restoring forest patches and forest corridors between these fragments, as well as through improving and promoting socio-economic benefits and the sustainable use and management of forests.

For the specific reforestation project "Araponga", Eben!Holz, together with SAVE Brasil, was able to identify several tree species whose natural distribution areas include the project area, i.e. are or were native there, and whose woods are used in musical instrument making. It was ultimately decided that the particularly important pernambuco, among others, should be planted in these areas. In addition to the pernambuco, five other tree species used in musical instrument making, which are also native to precisely this area of the Atlantic rain forest and are also endangered, were also included in the planting catalogue.These are cedroCedrela odorata), three Ipé species (Handroanthus chrysotrichus, Handroanthus heptaphyllus, Handroanthus impetiginosus) and Jatobá (Hymenaea courbaril).

  • Cedro is used for guitar backs and sides, necks, linings and blocks and is also listed on CITES Appendix II/Appendix B
  • Ipé is considered a promising alternative wood for stringed instrument bows and has also been listed on CITES Appendix II/Appendix B since 2022
  • Jatobá is used in guitar making for fingerboards, necks and pegs, in woodwind instrument making for oboes and clarinets and for xylophone mallets

Eben!Holz is proud to fulfil the association's mission of "protecting endangered woods for musical instrument making" for several species and to take account of the fact that protection and conservation can only work holistically in an intact ecosystem. This approach is also urgently needed, as it is not just the pernambuco tree that is under threat. A study published in early 2024 in the renowned Science Journal shows that two-thirds of the 4,950 tree species in the Mata Atlântica are threatened with extinction. Based on the latest research results, this study alarmingly categorises the pernambuco tree as "critically endangered".

In addition to planting in the "Araponga" project, Orchester des Wandels and Eben!Holz will also provide financial support for the maintenance of forest areas that have already been afforested.

The success of the forest restoration, i.e. the restoration of an intact ecosystem, is measured by bird monitoring, a tried and tested method used by SAVE Brasil. In addition, GPS registration has been agreed for all planted pernambuco seedlings in particular. This will facilitate future studies on growth rates and document the plantings. The species-specific mortality rate in the reforestation areas is to be determined for all planted seedlings and dead seedlings are to be replaced accordingly.

With a tried-and-tested combination of community engagement, on-site monitoring, restoration, bird surveying and ecotourism, SAVE Brasil has been successful. In 2022, it was honoured with the award for the best environmental NGO in Brazil.

Thanks to the experience that Eben!Holz was able to gather in its long-standing reforestation project in Madagascar, the organisation is confident that it has found the right local partner in SAVE Brasil. The involvement of Orchester des Wandels has also enabled the project volume to be doubled. Eben!Holz is looking forward to further successful cooperation with these two partners in the coming years.

"Araponga" is the name of an endangered bird species in the Atlantic rainforest. Arapongas can produce ear-piercing cries - unmistakable cries for help for them and their endangered ecosystem?

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