Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (2024)

Ecosystem restoration emerges as a pivotal nature-based solution to address the pressing challenges of the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity. Beyond its ecological significance, restoration exerts both direct and indirect positive impacts on economy and human well-being, transcending local boundaries to resonate on a global scale. Recognizing its importance and urgency, the United Nations has declared this the 'Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’. In Brazil, the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a non-profit Brazilian civil society organization established in 1994, has been actively engaged in Amazon restoration for 20 years. ISA is an Actor of the UN Decade and actively contributes to its objectives. Through the implementation of the ‘Muvuca’ restoration method and the strengthening of community-based native seed networks, ISA has championed ecological restoration with a focus on high biodiversity. This approach fosters the economy of sociobiodiversity with the native seed market and the well-being of seed collectors while safeguarding traditional territories and knowledge.

The ‘Muvuca’ Restoration Method

Inspired by nature and learning from traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, ISA has embraced the ‘Muvuca’ restoration method through direct seeding. Muvuca is a mix of seeds from dozens of native species at different successional stages, planted all at once to mimic natural regeneration mechanisms, such as the seed soil bank and the seed rain. This innovative system employs a high diversity of species and ensures operational efficiency, enabling mechanized restoration with reduced planting and maintenance time and costs.Planting can be done manually or mechanized using tractors and agricultural planters, enabling scalability and up to 20 times faster planting compared to saplings, at a much lower cost.With its ecological and economic benefits scientifically stated, the methodology is eligible for Carbon accreditation under UNDCC standards.

Up to date, ISA and partners have restored 11,000 hectares of forests using Muvuca, with hundreds of native species; this translates to approximately 33 million new trees growing and sequestering 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Beyond implementing restoration in its areas of operation in the Amazon, ISA and partners also promote the dissemination of the Muvuca method throughout Brazil by means of another initiative - 'Caminhos da sem*nte' (Seed Paths). This initiative has been ongoing since 2018 in partnership with civil society organizations, seed networks, cooperatives, companies, universities, and research institutions.

Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (1)

Step-by-Step of ‘Muvuca’ Method

The ‘Muvuca’ method can be employed for planting entire areas, densifying or enriching natural regeneration and seedlings plantations, establishing restoration nuclei, and creating regenerative Agroforestry Systems. Plant selection may involve species chosen for both ecological and economic interests, as well as biocultural values. The economic benefits of areas restored with Muvuca include short-cycle crops in the initial years, timber, fruits, other non-timber forest products (NTFP), as well as carbon credits and biodiversity credits. See below a concise step-by-step guide to the ‘Muvuca’ method (detailed information and graphics in Portuguese are available in two technical guides):

Step 1 - Seed Stage: Obtain orthodox seeds from the same vegetation and region, avoiding invasive species and store them properly. Calculate the Muvuca mix, considering various species with different lifespans. To form a forest, the mix must include a minimum of species with a lifespan of up to 1 year, shrubs and climbers with a lifespan of up to 3 years, trees with a lifespan of up to 30 years, and centennial trees. All should be mixed in a calculated proportion to ensure good ground coverage from the second month post-planting (see the table below as a reference).

Proportion of seed in the Muvuca mix categorized by species life cycle

Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (2)Step 2 - Planning the Planting: Choose between mechanical or manual seeding based on terrain and sociocultural conditions. Mix all seeds using a concrete mixer or tarp, and add sand for consistency. Plant during the onset of rains. Adjust seeding depth based on seed size and shape.

Step 3 - Site Preparation: Isolate the planting area from factors that could hinder restoration. Weed manually, through grazing or chemically to eliminate or lower invasive plants. Use agricultural techniques to loosen the soil, since most species need to be buried. Plow successive times during the dry season if you are seeding the entire area. Alternatively, make holes in the soil with hoes or other tools. Consider mulching.

Step 4 - Seeding: Use mechanized or manual broadcasting to sow seeds regularly across the entire area, then lightly plow over to bury the seeds. For seeding in rows, do it by hand or with seeder machines. In holes, sow manually and cover the seeds with one inch of loosen soil. Seedlings of recalcitrant or other profitable species may be planted after seeding. Choose your best-fit technique depending on soil, slope, regeneration conditions and availability of machines and workers.

Step 5 - Management Up to 3 Years: It is crucial to follow a well-defined management plan during the first 3 months, when most of the seeds must germinate and establish a dense new vegetation. Monitor parameters of plant cover, richness and tree density to take actions such as weeding invasive plants, controlling leaf eaters or re-seeding. Harvest short-cycle crops such as beans, passion fruits and pumpkins during this period.

Step 6 - Management from 3 to 6 Years: Densify gaps with manual direct seeding or seedlings. Seedlings of recalcitrant or profitable species may be included at that stage. Harvest fruits and light timber. Control invasive plants, when necessary; one option is light grazing during the rainy season.

Step 7 - Management from 7 Years Onward: Prune to increase light and promote desired species' growth. Perform thinning and obtain authorization for wood cuts. Develop a management plan considering fruiting cycles, wood harvesting, and natural regeneration. Always observe natural regeneration in your forest to ensure renewal throughout these cycles. One of the best indicators for ecological restoration is the appearance of regenerant native plants that were not planted.

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The Seeds of ‘Muvuca’ - the Redario Initiative

Direct seeding with Muvuca requires substantial seed quantities. Seed collection and processing are labor-intensive activities, creating job opportunities and income for local communities in their territories, and establishing a value chain that conserve ecosystems.Beyond ecological benefits, Muvuca restoration fosters the development of a community-based native seed supply chain known as Seed Networks. Seed networks promote conservation, development, and well-being in territories for indigenous peoples and other traditional communities, as well as for family farming. Sixteen years ago, from ISA’s campaign Y Ikatu Xingu (“Save the Xingu’s good water”) spun off the Rede de sem*ntes do Xingu (Xingu Seed Network), which has now become an independent organization internationally recognized for its work, also a partner of the Un Decade. In 2020, the network received the Ashden Awards, an international prize for climate solutions. Many seed collector groups and networks have emerged in Brazil and, in 2022, the Redário was born to support their professionalization and market access.

Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (4)

The Redário is an articulation between networks and groups of seed collectors, aimed to enhance positive socio-environmental impacts of restoration projects in Brazil. It emphasizes fair trade, collaboration, wide genetic diversity, and traceability. The native seed businesses generate income and employment for communities in their territories, particularly for women. It creates opportunities for innovation and professional growth from young to elderly individuals across various fields, from seed-related technical aspects to accounting, marketing, and communication. They enable economic diversification for these populations, improving their living conditions and social resilience. The quilombola, riverside, indigenous, geraizeiros, rural, and urban communities of seed collectors supply for effective and economical ecological restoration, while the seeds carry the values of conserved territories, traditional knowledge, and social inclusion in the fight against the climate emergency.

See the video Efficient restoration is done with Muvuca of seeds and people.

Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (5)

Redário supports the professionalization of seed networks’ governance, contracts, management, capacity building, knowledge dissemination, meetings and exchanges, law compliance, and other fronts. We also connect researchers in native seed and restoration fields to enhance techniques, analyses, and influence public policies that allow community-based and direct seeding initiatives (Check out our latest Technical Note in Portuguese HERE). Currently, Redário involves 24 articulated seed networks and around 1,200 participants. Up to 2023, Redário traded more than 63 tons of seeds from 275 native species. This generated an income higher than 2.5 million Brazilian reais for the collectors and provided support for the restoration of 11,000 hectares through Muvuca in over 95 projects in different Brazilian Biomes (Amazon, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, and Caatinga).

Challenges and Opportunities to promote seed-based restoration.

Challenges in promoting the Muvuca restoration method include cultural barriers and the unfamiliarity of most restoration practitioners in Brazil with the technique. Additionally, supporting native seed networks poses a significant challenge as it requires a lot of trust and a delicate balance between seed demand and supply. Often, demands arise at the last minute, lacking the advance notice that this seed collection process requires due to natural conditions. Seed buyers of restoration projects need to be ahead of their native seed demand, placing early orders and establishing fair contracts with seed collectors’ organizations. Furthermore, the supply of native seeds for restoration encounters political and legal barriers characterized by excessive regulations and inadequate requirements, a shortage of seed laboratories, and a lack of guidelines for testing the quality of native seeds. Finally, the value of the seed often falls short of covering all the costs required for the fair compensation of collectors and the accountability, legality, and governance of the process. To up-scale, additional financial mechanisms, such as tax subsidies, Payment for Environmental Services, and philanthropy, are still necessary.

Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (6)

Brazil has committed to ambitious restoration targets in various international climate and biodiversity agreements. These commitments are anchored in laws and public policies that promote conservation and restoration in both public and private areas. However, the country still falls short in implementing these policies and meeting the set benchmarks. Restoration should be integrated into a new national development paradigm, aligning environmental, socio-cultural, and economic benefits. Organized civil society, in collaboration with indigenous peoples, traditional populations, and local communities—the guardians of forests, fields, and savannas—has much to contribute collaboratively. The ‘Muvuca’ restoration method can contribute to scaling up restoration efforts, offering reduced costs and increased species diversity, thereby shaping an ecosystem with greater resilience. At the same time, the demand for native seeds creates a cycle of promoting conservation and well-being. This collaborative approach is essential to propel the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration towards achieving its restoration targets in the pursuit of a more sustainable and resilient future in Brazil and worldwide.

Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (7)

The Redário Team: Eduardo Malta (ISA/ Redário), Aline Ferragutti (ISA/ Redário), Andrea Ono (Redário), Beatriz Murer (ISA/ Redário), Danielle Celentano (ISA/ Redário), Elisângela Xipaia (ISA/ Redário), Emerson Cadete (ISA/ Redário), Giovanna Bernardes (ISA/ Redário), Juliano Nascimento (ISA/ Redário), Luciano Eichholz (ISA/ Redário), Matheus Rezende (ISA/ Redário), Milene Alves (ISA/ Redário), Rodrigo Junqueira (ISA/ Redário), Diego Lucena (ISA/ Redário), Anabele Gomes (UnB/ RSC/ Redário), Camila Motta (RSC/ Redário), Cibele Santana (RSC/ Redário), André Benedito (consultor), Maria Eduarda Camargo (RSC/ Redário), Natanna Horstmann (RSC/ Redário), Pedro Guimarães (Terrakrya/ Redário), Laura Antoniazzi (Agroicone/ Redário) and Edézio Miranda (Agroicone/ Redário), Henrique Oliveira (Agroicone/ Redário).

Authors: Danielle Celentano, Eduardo Malta, Rodrigo Junqueira, Beatriz Murer, Matheus Rezende, Andrea Ono.

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Campos Filho, E.M. et al, 2013 Mechanized Direct-Seeding of Native Forests in Xingu, Central Brazil. Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

Raupp, P.P., et al., 2020. Direct seeding reduces the costs of tree planting for forest and savanna restoration. Ecological Engineering.

Freitas, M.G. et al., 2019. Evaluating the success of direct seeding for tropical forest restoration over ten years. Forest Ecology and Management.

Rodrigues, S.B., et al 2019. Direct seeded and colonizing species guarantee successful early restoration of South Amazon forests. Forest Ecology and Management.

Verra Project Summary:

Campos Filho, E.M. et al, 2017. Guia da Muvuca - O passo a passo da semeadura direta de mixes de sem*ntes para restauração ecológica. (Muvuca Seeding Guide - Step by Step for mechanized direct seeding of seed mixes for ecological restoration). DOI 10.13140/RG.2.2.31482.59842

Vieira, DLM; et al. 2020. Guia de semeadura direta [livro eletrônico] : para restauração de florestas e cerrados. Caminhos da sem*nte. https://caminhosdasem**nte/pdfs/Guia.pdf

Urzedo, D, et al. 2021. Indigenous and local communities can boost seed supply in the UN decade on ecosystem restoration. Ambio.

Urzedo, D, et al. 2020. Seed Networks for Upscaling Forest Landscape Restoration: Is It Possible to Expand Native Plant Sources in Brazil? Forests.

Schmidt, I.B., et al. 2018. Community-based native seed production for restoration in Brazil - the role of science and policy. Plant Biology.

de Urzedo, D.I., Fisher, R., Piña-Rodrigues, F.C.M., Freire, J.M. and Junqueira, R.G.P. (2019), How policies constrain native seed supply for restoration in Brazil. Restor Ecol, 27: 768-774.

Redário e Comitê Técnico de sem*ntes Florestais. 2023. Desafios e oportunidades para o desenvolvimento da cadeia produtiva de sem*ntes nativas para a restauração de ecossistemas no Brasil. Nota Técnica. 18p.

TheUN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and its partners, covers terrestrial as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. As a global call to action, it will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.Find out how you can contribute to the UN Decade.Follow#GenerationRestoration.

Seeds of Change: Embracing the 'Muvuca' Method for Biodiversity and Social Restoration (2024)


What are the methods used to restore biodiversity? ›

What are two techniques used to restore biodiversity? Bioremediation and Biological augmentation.

What are the benefits of restoring biodiversity? ›

The coastal and marine environment is a major source of biodiversity. Restoring a variety of coastal and marine habitats provides for healthy communities of plants and animals, including endangered and threatened species, to maintain ecological balance within natural systems.

What is a common first step in ecological restoration? ›

The restoration process begins with an assessment of the degraded site. The current site conditions should be thoroughly examined to identify the need for restoration and any potential actions required to restore the site.

What are 4 ways we can protect biodiversity? ›

Support local and regional projects aimed at tackling biodiversity loss. Buying fewer products and making sure the products you do buy minimise the impact on biodiversity. Investing in ways that promote biodiversity. Reducing waste of consumer goods: food, clothes, electrical appliances, etc.

How long does it take to restore biodiversity? ›

Overall, it took 10 million years for species numbers to fully recover to previous levels. This study highlights the extensive long-term risks posed by diversity loss which may result in highly unstable communities, loss of important ecosystem functions and long timescales of recovery.

What are the 3 methods typically used for ecological restoration? ›

We argue that: (1) restoration aimed at bringing ecosystems back to a previous state, or "return" restoration, favors natural science at the landscape scale over social inclusion at the community scale; (2) restoration seeking to recreate functional ecosystems in locations away from where the degradation has occurred, ...

What is restoration technique? ›

Restoration techniques are methods of repairing, enhancing, or restoring the ecological functions and values of a landscape. They can range from simple interventions, such as planting native species, to complex engineering, such as creating wetlands or restoring streams.

What are the social benefits of biodiversity? ›

Social Benefits. The most recognizable benefit of biodiversity is the aesthetically pleasing aspect. A huge variety of plants are used in decorating homes and other buildings. This also can be a major attraction for tourists, bringing in profits and creating jobs.

What is the disadvantage of biodiversity? ›

Disadvantages: The more number of animals and plants increases the population and this can cause more consumption of resources and extinction of resources. Excess of biodiversity can cause loss of life by one animal attack over another animal or human.

What are two things we should consider when restoring an ecosystem? ›

Irrespective of the differences in weather, water availability, topography and demographics of ecosystems from region to region, the three things most important to restore any local ecosystem are: Plant saplings, water then to increase greenery in your area.

How do humans influence biodiversity? ›

The main direct cause of biodiversity loss is land use change (primarily for large-scale food production) which drives an estimated 30% of biodiversity decline globally. Second is overexploitation (overfishing, overhunting and overharvesting) for things like food, medicines and timber which drives around 20%.

What are some examples of ecological restoration? ›

There are many different facets of restoration ecology, and they include practices such as erosion control, reforestation and revegetation (or replanting the native species of plants), removal of non-native species and reintroduction of native species.

What are the 4 approaches to ecological restoration? ›

Ecological restoration refers to the intentional process of assisting the recovery and renewal of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Four approaches to restoration include passive restoration, active restoration, rehabilitation, and reclamation.

What is the best way to restore a damaged ecosystem? ›

Rehabilitation. Land managers improve conditions of a degraded ecosystem by transitioning it to another, different ecosystem type. For example, land managers could rehabilitate a degraded forest by transitioning it to a tree plantation. Rehabilitation could involve replacing just a few species or many species.


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