• Human occupation / Lack of legal land titling
• Biological contamination (Pinus spp. tree plantations)
• Introduction of exotic species
• Lack of access control
• Human occupation / Lack of legal land titling
• Biological contamination and environmental alteration
• Unstructured team and lack of financial resources
Human occupation / Lack of legal land titling
Humans live within the park because of the lack of land organization and titling. There are four main groups occupying the land: communities that make their livelihood from fishing, rural land tenants engaged in agricultural production, tourist companies, and forestry companies.
The fishing communities have a strong impact, mainly on the aquatic environments. The mere presence has an impact, but more importantly is their resource extraction. There is essentially competition for resources and space between the fishermen and the migratory birds. Communities are also capable of introducing exotic species that may become invasive and harm the natural environment. Existing exotic species include domesticated dogs, cats, and pigs.
The rural producers, are responsible for converting terrestrial natural systems into agricultural altered areas, which in some cases become degraded. Large areas of flooded grassland within the park have been gradually turned into pasturelands for grazing, causing a vast reduction of the flora species richness. The majority of flooded forests was converted into pastureland, while the arboreal restinga stretch (both inside and near the park) has been progressively converted into pasture and crops.
In addition, electric fences have been erected in order to detain the cattle throughout the park, even crossing some of the ponds. These fences endanger visitors as well as any species that might touch the fence.
Biological contamination (Pinus spp. tree plantations)
The forestry companies, though do not amount to a big area within the park (approximately 3 to 5 % of the park), converted rich ecosystems into monocultures. According to the management plan of the park (IBAMA, 1999), the presence of massive blocks of Pinus spp. can modify the regime of prevailing winds, their directions and intensity, which can change the interaction of dunes with marshes and other bodies of water. In addition, the Pinus spp. needles release substances that inhibit germination of most native species' seeds (IBAMA, 1999). There is also a heightened risk of fire because of the Pinus spp. plantings. Even though there have been no forest fires linked to such plantings within the park, there have been in the outskirts. This shows the potential is real and indicates the necessity of regular monitoring, especially during the dry season and droughts.
The biggest threat associated with Pinus spp. plantings (inside or near the park) is biological contamination. These species are not native to the area and have the ability to spread and self-colonize. Pinus spp. seeds are easily spread throughout this wind-dominated system and the seeds have already become part of the seed bank within the national park. With the extremely fast growth, new specimens of Pinus spp. quickly colonize arboreal and shrubby restingas in the region. Due to its size and colonizing capacity, they break through restinga's canopy, altering the restinga natural balance.
A seedling Plantations enter the park in some places
With the competition for light and nutrients, native species soon undergo physiological stress and are steadily eliminated from the system to the spontaneous establishment of Pinus spp. The result is massive and immediate loss of biodiversity in addition to compromising the scenic beauty of the park on the account of changing landscapes and environments. There are possibly other negative consequences, but they have yet to be studied.
Introduction of exotic species
In addition to the above-mentioned Pinus issue, several other exotic species have been detected within the park. Domestic animals, such as pigs (raised in the fishermen communities), oxen and sheep (raised by ranchers) have been introduced to the park. Currently, the greatest impacts of such species in the park include nest trampling, soil erosion, and the predation of native species (by domesticated cats and dogs). There also are several introduced plants, such as eucalyptus, onions, and bamboo, which have the potential to spread and alter the native plant communities. These species have been detected in an area designated as environmental preservation.
In the State of Rio Grande do Sul, hunting has cultural and historical roots, even more so than in the rest of Brazil. For example, hunting is forbidden by law in most of Brazil with the exception of some places in northern Brazil, hunting is legal in Rio Grande do Sul. There are strict hunting regulations, and hunting is only allowed for certain species during certain seasons, nonetheless, there may be confusion regarding hunting in the national park. Hunting is illegal in any national park in Brazil. During our visit to the park, although we did not see direct evidence of poaching, we were told that it was a common activity. Poaching occurs in the park and throughout the whole region. The main targets are the capybara rodent (Hidrochaeris hidrochaeris) and the nutria (Myocastor coypus). Poachers are probably locals (including the park residents) and from other regions. These animals are hunted for sport and because they are a source of food. Birds are also poached for commercial sale as pets. Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus) and other bird species' eggs are gathered for consumption. Even though hunting and poaching in Lagoa do Peixe National Park represent a medium-degree threat due to relative low intensity, they should not occur at all within a national park.
Lack of access control
IBAMA has no effective control at all over the paths, trails, and roads that provide access to the park. Practically anyone can access any sector of the conservation unit without a single control post. During times of heavier visitor flow, the park administration sets up control booths at the two main entrances, Trilha das Dunas e Trilha do Talha Mar (Dunes and Cutwater Trails). In addition to the ease of terrestrial access, ships, mostly fishing vessels, enter the marine portion of the park without any restrictions or permissions.
Fishing greatly impacts the species supposedly protected by the marine portion of the park. Fishing boats, mainly from the state of Santa Catarina, illegally fish within the boundaries of the park. Since the park administration does not have boats in order to conduct sea patrols, they have no way to enforce the parks boundaries. The "protected" stretch of ocean is in reality open to fishermen who practice bottom trawling less than 200m off the shore. IBAMA does has the Coast Guard's support to limit such fishing. This cooperation is on paper only and does not function; it can take more than two days for a call to be answered-if answered at all.
Two boats are used to hook up the net that then trawls the bottom of the ocean, trapping everything in its path, including corals, vegetation, and ocean floor.
Tourism, in a broad way, generates some pollution in the form of garbage. Tourists tend to leave their garbage along trails and beaches. Nevertheless, when compared to the garbage that washes up on the shore from the tide, this trash generated by tourists is insignificant.
There is no infrastructure to deal with tourism. Tourists can cause erosion on trails in the park. Motorized vehicles also cause erosion and even dune destruction because they tend to drive off the established paths, creating new routes and trails, destroying the dunes in the process.
Currently, tourism is a low-level threat. However, it must be monitored.
There are small dams run by rural producers trying to control the flow of water in their fields and rice cultivation areas. Such dams, though located outside of the park boundaries to the south and north, may be causing serious alterations in the park's hydrologic system, since they affect the drainage of the existing marshes (IBAMA, 1999).
Human occupation / Lack of legal land titling
In case no effective action takes place to title the land and to relocate current dwellers, the future generations, mainly fishermen, might come to claim land use rights and seek fishing access to the lakes, lagoons and sea. Although they are not entitled to such right, because the current dwellers do not legally own the land, there might be some sort of movement demanding the right of fishing within the park.
There is a great danger that some portions of the park, such as the flooded forest, the arboreal restinga, and the flooded grasslands, will be converted into pasture or agricultural land and will no longer be significantly represented within the park. That will cause a significant loss of the wealth of species protected by the park. These land conversions must to stop in the short or medium-term.
Biological contamination and environmental alteration
Cultivated exotic plants like Pinus spp. may disperse and colonize whole areas, becoming invasive. Domestic animals like dogs and cats can also become feral, and increase their predation on native species. Cat and dog proliferation also raises public health safety concerns. Increase in the numbers of other domestic animals will increase the impacts previously described. A serious risk to the integrity of the park's ecosystems is the possibility of colonization of the area by exotic wild pigs (Sus scrofa). That has been happening in several parts of the Rio Grande do Sul State and the hybridization with domestic grazed pigs is an imminent danger.
There is a tendency increased tourist activity. That can become a problem if no infrastructure is constructed to accommodate the visitors. Visitation needs to be monitored and stations need to be installed, as recommended in the management plan. The main impacts of the possible tourism raise would be increased solid waste, erosion, and increased perturbation of feeding and nesting birds.
Unstructured team and lack of financial resources
Approximately 60% of park staff was hired using resources obtained from environmental mitigation compensation in the region. Since that resource will only be available until 2005, there is a great risk that the conservation unit's team will be significantly reduced after 2005 if no other resources are identified or made available.
This same problem goes for not only the number of staff, but for the conservation unit's activities and maintenance as outlined in the management plan. The planned budget for the next few years is about US$ 140,000 per year. Bu, the resources that really are available to the park every year through IBAMA's allocation vary significantly. The average figure is US$ 23,000 a year; a lot less than the park's planned budget.