4 Grassland Restoration in Southern Brazil


Research project "Degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in subtropical grasslands, and thresholds for restoration" (KO 1741/3-1)


1. To test if the concept of “novel” and “hybrid” ecosystems forwarded by R. Hobbs and colleagues applies to degraded subtropical grasslands, i.e. if these ecosystems group along axes of deviation in abiotic conditions and biotic composition from reference ecosystems.

2. To investigate the extent to which ecosystem functions in the hybrid and novel ecosystems differ from reference grasslands, and whether these differences are related to deviation from the biodiversity of reference systems.

3. To manipulate degraded grasslands through selected restoration methods to identify transition thresholds and to test if restorability of abiotic conditions and biotic composition corresponds to restorability of ecosystem functions.

A large-scale ‘rapid ecosystem assessment’ will form the analytical basis of the study, followed up by field experiments on seed limitation (i.e. lack of seed bank or dispersal) and site limitation (i.e. lack of safe sites for germination and inadequate conditions for plant establishment). The experiments will be conducted in a factorial design testing for transition thresholds between degradation stages.

The project was developed in cooperation with Prof. Gerhard Oberbeck, Department of Botany, UFRGS, and Prof. Valério Pillar, Department of Ecology, UFRGS. German scientists assigned to these projects (Dr. Julia-Maria Hermann, MSc Christiane Koch) receive scientific and logistic support from both UFRGS institutions and, since October 2013, from the Universidade Estadual do Rio Grande do Sul (UERGS).

Kurzartikel zum Projekt auf Deutsch: GfÖ-Nachrichten 43(1), Nodium 6

Ongoing since: June 2013

Project leader: Johannes Kollmann, Lehrstuhl für Renaturierungsökologie, Technische Universität München (TUM)

Project coordination at TUM: Julia-Maria Hermann

Associated institutions and researchers:

Lehrstuhl für Terrestrische Ökologie, TUM: Wolfgang W. Weisser, Martin Gossner, Sebastian M. Meyer
Departamento de Botânica, Universade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS): Gerhard Overbeck
Departamento de Ecologia, UFRGS: Luciana Podgaiski, Valério Pillar, Heinrich Hasenack
Departamento de Solos, UFRGS: Gustavo Tornquist
Universidade Estadual do Rio Grande do Sul, Unidade de São Francisco de Paula: Marcelo M. Duarte
Centro de Ciências Agrarias, Universidade Federal do Piauí: Ademir Araújo

Project funding:

DFG (KO 1741/2-1, KO1741/2-2, KO1741/3-1)
CNPq (490069/2011-8)
DAAD Biodiversity Network TUMBRA (54417975)


Bilateral cooperation workshop “Measure what, monitor how? Integrating biodiversity and ecosystem functions with ecological restoration”, Freising, Germany, August 27th to September 3rd 2014

This workshop joined senior scientists with many years of practical experience in biodiversity and restoration experiments, and in the collection of plant and invertebrate data in temperate and subtropical ecosystems, as well as MSc and PhD students developing innovative approaches to monitoring of restoration success at Technische Universität München, and the Brazilian federal universities of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and Minas Gerais (UFMG). See full program here.

Scientific discourse was guided by the following questions: State-of-the-art in experimental and descriptive studies on biodiversity - ecosystem functions relations? Which ecosystem variables are essential for assessing the degradation or improvement (~success of recovery, reclamation, restoration) of ecosystem state? To which extent are these variables considered (or not) in restoration research published during the last decades? Which easy-to-measure variables may serve as proxies for monitoring essential functions outside the artificial grassland ecosystems of biodiversity experiments?

The workshop organisers acknowledge funding by: CNPq (travel of Brazilian scientists); TUM International Center (accomodation in Freising, river Inn excursion); the Dean’s Office of TUM School for Life Sciences Weihenstephan (catering) and DFG KO1741/3-1 (J-M Hermann).



2012 - 2013: Cooperation initiation

South America contains one of the world’s largest primary grassland areas with high native species diversity. Conservation of these grasslands was prioritised by an IUCN-resolution in 2008. In Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, ca. 50% of the original grassland area have been converted, while knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is still fragmentary. Only ca. 2% of grasslands are contained in nature reserves where, on cessation of human action, woody species establish abundantly. Improper pasture management leads to an increase in exotic species invasions. Restoration of these hybrid and novel ecosystems and sustainable management of remaining and restored grasslands is a new field of research in Brazil.

The cooperation project joins the expertise on grassland diversity and dynamics at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) with the expertise on grassland restoration projects of German scientists at Technische Universität München (TUM). The two partner institutions look back on a long-term cooperation on research in the grassland-forest-mosaic of southern Brazil. The long-term goal of this new bilateral research project is to provide restoration practitioners with a sequence of reference states of southern Brazilian grasslands, and a set of restoration and monitoring techniques suitable for restoring ecosystems in a hybrid or novel state. This will be achieved by a combination of review work, inter- and trans-disciplinary exchange, descriptive and experimental field work.

A 2-year-initiation phase, jointly funded by DFG and CNPq, served for establishing new and refreshing former contacts among scientists of both institutions, intensive discussion between researches, planners and practitioners, literature review work and visits of research projects in the field.

Furthermore, the southern Brazilian grassland ecosystems were targeted for scientific exchange within the DAAD-funded TUMBRA biodiversity network. The overall aim of this network is to strengthen cooperation between Technische Universität München as a leading European university with a strong history in research on the sustainable use of natural resources, and three prominent Brazilian universities with strong interest in the area of biodiversity research and sustainable land use. The network is coordinated by Prof. Wolfgang Weisser, Chair of Terrestrial Ecology, TUM.

CNPq-workshop "Biodiversity, conservation and restoration in Southern Brazil", Porto Alegre, 17.12.2013

Visit to UFRGS, Porto Alegre, and German-Brazilian Excursion, Campos da Cima da Serra, Brazil, 4.-7.9.2012

TUMBRA workshop “Advances in ecological frameworks: toward process-oriented conservation and management”, Campinas, Brazil, 30.8.-3.9.2012

DFG-CNPq-Workshop ”Scientific bases for grassland restoration in Southern Brazil“, Freising, Germany, 16.-17.7.2012

Visit to UFRGS, Porto Alegre, and German-Brazilian excursion, Campos da Cima da Serra, Brazil, 4.-7.9.2012

Prof. Johannes Kollmann, Dr. Julia-Maria Hermann and Prof. Wolfgang Weisser were invited to visit the Campus of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, and to participate in a two-day excursion to the Campos da Cima da Serra, in the highlands of Rio Grande do Sul. The excursion was hosted by Prof. Gerhard Overbeck and Prof. Valério Pillar at UFRGS. The participants were presented with on-going research on changes in grassland structure and diversity under grazing and fire exclusion (PELD project) and confronted with a range of remnant, degraded and converted former grassland ecosystems.

Conversion of grasslands to arable land, involving tilling, application of limestone, fertilizer and herbicides, proceeds continuously even in the buffer zones of NCUs. Non-native herbaceous species, many of them introduced from Europe, are conspicuous in these areas and dominate arable fallows at least initially. Logged pine plantations, left to spontaneous succession, are characterised by a mix of native grassland and forest species, although several key plant species groups are less abundant or missing (Fabaceae, tussock grasses). Ruderal species are present but to less extent than in arable land. Light grazing pressure (0.25 head of cattle/ha) must be expected in all areas.

Pastures have burnt extensively this winter, also inside buffer areas and core zones of NCUS: A joint result of a dry preceding summer, biomass accumulation in areas unburnt and ungrazed due to changes in legislation, and in some cases vandalism. Future projects must be prepared to deal with this situation (stakeholder integration, establishment of firebreaks).

Photo album German-Brazilian excursion, Campos da Cima da Serra, Brazil, 4.-7.9.2012

TUMBRA workshop “Advances in ecological frameworks: toward process-oriented conservation and management”, Campinas, Brazil, 30.8.-4.9.2012


The first bilateral TUMBRA workshop, hosted by Prof. Thomas Lewinsohn at UNICAMP, Campinas, Brazil, was attended by Prof. Johannes Kollmann and Dr. Julia-Maria Hermann of the Chair of Restoration Ecology, TUM. Three days of this workshop were filled with presentations of current interests and advances in biodiversity and restoration research by German and Brazilian colleagues, and with intense discussion of major challenges in these research fields. Three joint publications are in preparation. A two-day excursion, led by Dr. Giselda Durigan, introduced the participants to the Cerrado between Campinas and Brazil and highlighted the similarity in challenges for restoration research in this biome and the southern Brazilian grasslands: 1) Native species diversity is critically endangered by land use intensification, land use change (towards agriculture and exotic tree plantations) and invasive exotic species (C4 grass species of African origin). 2) Pilot restoration projects, although successful in re-establishing native trees of the Cerrado, have neglected restoration of the herbaceous and grass cover. Consequently, there is a lack of techniques for invasive species control, restoration of Cerrado soil properties, native herbaceous and grass species transfer.

Photo album TUMBRA workshop “Advances in ecological frameworks: toward process-oriented conservation and management”, Campinas, Brazil, 30.8.-4.9.2012

DFG-CNPq-Workshop ”Scientific bases for grassland restoration in Southern Brazil“, Freising, Germany, 16.-17.7.2012


During the first German-Brazilian Grassland Restoration Workshop, hosted by Dr. Julia-Maria Hermann and Prof. Johannes Kollmann at the Chair of Restoration Ecology, TU München, Freising, German and Brazilian researchers presented the legislative, economic and scientific framework of grassland restoration of both countries. Brazilian researchers were introduced to a set of techniques for ecological restoration of grassland restoration. German researchers were challenged to reflect upon the broad-scale applicability and economical sustainability of techniques originally developed in the context of European grassland systems. A one-day excursion to the Munich gravel plain included visits to remnant and restored calcareous grasslands and to the farm of Johann Krimmer, Pulling, a pioneer in propagation of native herbaceous and grass seeds for restoration. The framework program included a visit to the National Park ”Bayerischer Wald“, hosted by Dr. Wolfram Adelmann (ANL) and Prof. Jörg Müller (TUM) in which researchers and practitioners had the opportunity to exchange their experiences with nature conservation practice in both countries.

Workshop program

Garchinger Heide-Reader

Brasilianische Wissenschaftler staunen über bayerische Wildnis

Photo album DFG-CNPq-Workshop ”Scientific bases for grassland restoration in Southern Brazil“, Freising, Germany, 16.-17.7.2012