Contact:	Bob Nelson					For immediate release
		(212) 854-6580					December 11, 1997
		rjn2@columbia.edu


Editors:  Color photographs of the lion tamarin are available.

Columbia University and Environmental Groups Join To Save "Mata Atlantica," Brazil's Unique Coastal Forest

__________________ Organizations Sign Memo of Understanding in Washington Dec. 15
Columbia University, the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo and a Brazilian environmental organization will draw up plans to identify and conserve the unique biological diversity of Brazil's "Mata Atlantica," the endangered coastal forest that centuries of farming, cattle grazing and urban development have shrunk to 4 percent of its original size. The organizations will sign a memo of understanding Dec. 15 at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to formalize their scientific cooperation. The parties to the agreement are the Fundao Para a Conservao e a Produo Florestal (Foundation for Forest Conservation and Production) of the State of So Paulo, the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecolgicas (Institute for Ecological Research, IPE) based in Nazare Paulista, and the Trustees of Columbia University, represented by the University's Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC). "This agreement will serve as a catalyst to bring the knowledge we have already gained to bear on the intensive work to be done within So Paulo state, including redoubled efforts to develop long-term management plans for our precious endangered species," said Fabio Feldman, Secretary of the Environment of the State of So Paulo. Though public attention in the United States to Brazilian environmental issues has focused on the Amazon rainforest, coastal forests are far more immediately threatened, scientists at the participating organizations said. Among the forest's endangered species are the lion tamarins, a squirrel-sized monkey with long gold or black fur that have been the subject of intensive scientific study and conservation attention only in the last 30 years. The black- headed lion tamarin was classified as a separate species in 1990. The animals were at one time common along the Brazilian coast, but now can be found in only scattered patches of forest; some species of the primate number fewer than 1,000. Hundreds of such species are endemic to the forest, found nowhere else in the world. Seventeen of the forest's 23 primate species are unique, according to an estimate from the University of Minas Gerais. Dozens of indigenous birds, amphibians and plants are also at risk. "Of all the environments in Brazil, the Mata Atlantica is by far the most endangered," said Don J. Melnick, director of CERC and professor of anthropology and biological sciences at Columbia. "Since this area harbors some of the rarest plants and animals in Brazil and has the highest priority for conservation, we want to lend collaborative assistance to comprehensively describe what is there and comprehensively develop plans for its conservation." Destruction of the Atlantic forest has occurred since the first European settlers arrived in the 16th century. But it has only recently become the focus of international conservation efforts. Considerable public education and research in the states north of So Paulo (Rio, Bahia and Minas Gerais) has also been undertaken, and the lion tamarins are now recognized nationwide as a symbol of the need for forest conservation. Local governments and environmental groups are buying up secondary forest, and small groups of the monkeys have been successfully reintroduced. There is even a waiting list of farmers willing to set aside unused acreage to help conservation efforts. Further public education will be needed to demonstrate that preserving the forest is a net public good, participants to the agreement said. The principal goal of the three organizations is to develop conservation management plans for each endangered species and the habitat in which it lives, which in many cases will involve population surveys and genetic studies to accurately determine the distribution of diversity in the remaining forest patches. Genetic studies of the four species of lion tamarin are already under way. Economic, agronomic and community work will also be needed to develop strategies for long-term sustainability of this highly vulnerable ecosystem. Among the officials expected at the signing on the third floor of the embassy at 3006 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., at 11 A.M. are Mr. Feldman; Paulo-Tarso Flecha de Lima, Ambassador of Brazil to the United States; Marcos Egydio Martins, executive director of the Fundao; Suzana M. Padua, president, and Claudio Padua, director of research, of IPE; Michael Crow, vice provost of Columbia; Dr. Melnick; and Mary C. Pearl, associate director of CERC and executive director of Wildlife Preservation Trust International. The agreement, which specifies a period of cooperation of five years, sets forth programs in public education and outreach in both the United States and Brazil; environmental research, such as the ongoing work in lion tamarin genetics; and programmatic work in conservation and management of existing species in So Paulo state. Scientists and students will travel in both directions to conduct research and participate in educational programs. As an attempt to conserve species so close to the very large and growing metropolis of So Paulo, the three-party agreement will serve as a model for balancing economic growth with natural resource conservation, Dr. Melnick said. Widespread habitat fragmentation from urban development can often result in invasions of exotic species that push out native species, the Columbia professor added. CERC and the IPE have been cooperating on research and education programs since 1995. The two organizations established IPE's research headquarters near Morro do Diabo (Devil's Mountain), a 100,000-acre state park in western So Paulo state that contains the largest population of lion tamarins. This document is available at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/pr/. Working press may receive science and technology press releases via e-mail by sending a message to rjn2@columbia.edu. 12.11.97 19,238
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