A never-seen-before bird and a lot of richness: get to know the fauna of the Distrito do Saí, which should be protected by Wildlife Refuge

04/11/2021 13:50

Embroidered bird with a robust beak*, according to Wiki Aves, is the meaning for the scientific nomenclature of Pachyramphus marginatus, or just “black-capped becard”. The small animal, which measures up to 14 cm and weighs no more than 18 grams, had its distribution recorded from Pernambuco to Paraná, but in December 2019 it was seen for the first time even further south, specifically in the Distrito do Saí region.

The ornithologists who recognized it are from the team at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina responsible for the socio-environmental survey for the creation of a conservation unit in São Francisco do Sul, on the northern coast of Santa Catarina. First, the team identified the male. A few months later, a female was also seen for the first time, consolidating the hypothesis that the forest has a lot to present, including in terms of ecological tourism.

According to Professor Guilherme Renzo Rocha Brito, from the Department of Ecology and Zoology at UFSC, these first records extend the species for about 40 km to the south of its known distribution area, and although it is not possible to say with certainty whether other specimens had already flown further south, this is relevant information for understanding the birdlife of Saí. The team identified at least 252 different species in the region, from 59 families – data that make it one of the richest regions in the state.

“It is one of the richest bird areas in the state’s Atlantic Forest. From there, it starts to decrease a little, for climate reasons, due to the cold weather. In comparative terms, it is possible that there are similar numbers in the araucaria forests, but I suspect that it does not come very close to the richness we found there”, he explains.

The professor says that birds are animals from very specific environments, that is, depending on the type of environment, it is possible to find a community that only fits that region. “In a mangrove, for example, you find birds that are only in that environment. In the forests you will find a community a little different. But in the case of the Distrito do Saí, in that region there is a mosaic of various types”, he comments. Surrounded by bay, mangroves, forests and hills, the area has birds of different colors, types and patterns – a record of biodiversity and the urgency of conservation.”A little further up, on the border between Paraná and São Paulo, for example, there will be a little greater variety for being a larger nucleus of forests. What we see in Sai is a very interesting potential”.

As birds are very sensitive to changes in their environment and very dependent on forest habitat, the richness in the area is also an indication that the forests of the Distrito do Saí region support a relatively healthy community, including a high number of endemisms and rare and threatened species. In addition to the black-capped becard, the team also identified species such as the Jaó-do-Sul (yellow-legged tinamou), of the Macuco family, a relatively large animal that looks like a chicken and is very often hunted, sought for food. A free-living Bullfinch has also been identified, a rarer species much sought after by coops in the past, found only in areas of unspoiled and undisturbed wildlife.

“The message is that it is a very complex community, with many agents and many examples. And the more complex the community, the more complex are the interactions, for the sustainability of such a community it is required a very healthy environment, with plenty of resources. More than 50% of these birds are insectivores, for example, dependent on insects”, he illustrates.

An effective development of this analysis on birdlife was widely commented on by the community in the Distrito do Saí, as this characteristic can lead to the creation of touristic projects related to bird watching. “The Distrito do Saí is one of the only areas in the state of Santa Catarina with the possibility of observing and recording many species. This scenic beauty encourages nature tourism”, indicates the UFSC report. “The community’s reception regarding this possibility was very good. Inn owners, for example, were excited about this issue, as it appeared as a new development potential”, reinforces the professor.

Example of biodiversity
The region, according to the fauna survey, has an undeniable ecological importance. According to Professor Selvino Neckel de Oliveira, from the Department of Ecology and Zoology at UFSC, who coordinated the study, the first step towards conservation is to acquire knowledge about the area and its biodiversity, as this makes it possible to assess each species and their determined characteristics. “Based on this data, you can have a dimension of the conservation status, for example, if you are facing a species that has a restricted distribution in that area or if it has never been registered in that environment”.

In the case of the Atlantic Forest, which was reduced to about 7% of what it was originally in the past, its subsequent recovery resulted in a landscape with fragmented habitats, that is, patches of forest areas separated by cities or agricultural systems that isolated certain species which, as a consequence, can be extinguished. “In a context of fragmentation, even the species that manage to remain become unviable, as populations are decreasing, since there is no exchange of genetic material between populations”, he explains.


Oliveira explains that it is necessary to study the environment, know what it has and assess its state of conservation.“Our fauna survey showed that the Distrito do Saí is one of the richest places for species in our Atlantic Forest, with a very high number of species, compared to the area unit”, he points out.”And why is this environment rich? Because the northern part of Santa Catarina is a connection region for fauna and flora that come from the Southeast/Northeast of Brazil and the southern part of Brazil. So, we have elements from the fauna and flora of the South meeting with elements from the Southeast and Northeast regions of Brazil.

An example that the team included in their analysis is the Pygmy Brocket, a species recorded in the forest of the Distrito do Saí for about two years and whose occurrence was more common in the Atlantic Forest portion of the São Paulo region and from there to the Northeast. Amphibian species observed in the forest are also examples of a region with a heterogeneous fauna, with elements that had their origins further south or north of the Saí. “What happens is that the limit of distribution of these countless species occurs here in the Saí region”.

The professor recalls that what the team surveyed in the region is a small sample, the result of about 20 days in the field, due to the pandemic context. Even so, great diversity was observed. “Imagine if you had a study station at this location 20, 30 years ago and how important these records would have been in the long term. We were impressed, because in a short time we were able to prove this biodiversity”, he adds.

The data – which in the report are divided into groups (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds and dipterous insects) – do not allow the team to hypothesize about the possible loss of biodiversity caused by human action, for example. But the researcher observes that the region has lost areas of forest, in addition to being constantly threatened by construction sites, such as port expansion. “The deer, for example, we registered only one individual. Wasn ´t  there more ten or a hundred years ago? Or even the Howler monkey, which used to be seen with some frequency and is now practically no longer seen in this region”.

For him, what stands out the most in the fauna of the Distrito do Saí is the set of constrction site, identified through the observation of the elements of the Atlantic forest that are well represented in several points of the polygon and that are essential for the justification of a Conservation Unit. “There are many components of biodiversity: the physical environment, with springs with good quality water, the biotic component, such as huge trees; few, but they are there, and trees that produce many fruits for fauna. The components of the Atlantic Forest biodiversity are all there”.


Reread the series by accessing the ‘Nascentes do Saí’ tag or clicking here

Amanda Miranda/Agecom Journalist


Translated by SINTER/UFSC

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