The shorebird stopover in Lagoa do Peixe National Park, like Delaware Bay, is one of the most important red knot stopovers in the Western Hemisphere, and also like Delaware Bay, vitally threatened. Early work conducted by Harrington et al (1986) in 1981 observed 21,000 red knots in aerial surveys of the area from Pintal to Rio Grande Brazil, with the majority occurring in Lagoa do Peixe. Based on turnover estimates in the Delaware Bay that indicate that the population using the site is 2.3 times the observed peak count (knots departing before the count and those arriving after the count) the population using Lagoa de do Piexe in the mid 1980s could have been in excess of 47,145. The Harrington count was done at the same time as Morrison and Ross (1989) epic survey of shorebird wintering areas in South America where they estimated 53,300 knots wintering in Patagonia, south of LDP. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that then and now most long distance red knots in Patagonia, staged at LDP before moving to Delaware Bay.
The stopover population of red knots at Lagoa do Peixe reflects the larger decline, with counts of more than 20,000 birds in the mid 1980s now down to peak counts of 5000 birds. Research at Lagoa do Peixe in the 1980s and 90s showed rates of stopover weight gain to be among the highest in the flyway, comparable to that of Delaware Bay. This implies that stopover conditions at the site have similar importance for affecting the survival and reproduction of red knots and that the site will continue to have an important role in the recovery of red knot populations.
Lagoa do Peixe was set aside as a national park in 1986. And has since been named a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site of international importance and a Ramsar site within the UNESCO Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve. Nonetheless, conservation threats continue to mount in the region, culminating in the recent proposal of the Brazilian government to downgrade the protected status of the park from National Park to “Environmental Protection Area” which permits expanded economic activity in the park.
The park already suffers from a lack of resources to enforce regulations, manage and protect the region’s resources. This downgraded status would further diminish efforts to conserve the area. At the same time, multiple threats to the ecological integrity of Lagoa do Peixe have emerged and expanded since the park was established.
In partnership with Unisinos University, ICMBio and other local scientists and groups, our team is working to continue the protection of this area and the migratory shorebirds that rely on it.