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Restoration of A Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystem Successful On Small-scale ScienceDaily (Apr. 30, 2008) — Half a century after most of Costa Rica's rain forests were cut down, researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Sciences (BTI) on the Cornell campus are attempting what many thought was impossible -- restoring a tropical rain forest ecosystem. When the researchers planted worn-out cattle pastures in Costa Rica with a sampling of local trees in the early 1990s, native species of plants began to move in and flourish, raising the hope that destroyed rain forests could one day be replaced. Ten years after the tree plantings, Cornell graduate student Jackeline Salazar counted the species of plants that took up residence in the shade of the new planted areas. She found remarkably high numbers of species -- more than 100 in each plot. And many of the new arrivals were also to be found in nearby remnants of the original forests. "By restoring forests we hope not only to be improving the native forests, but we are helping to control erosion and helping the quality of life of the local people," said Carl Leopold, the William H. Crocker Scientist Emeritus at BTI. He pointed out that drinking water becomes more readily available when forests thrive because tree roots act as a sort of sponge, favoring rainwater seepage and preventing water running off hills and draining away. Please view more details about this project at: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080428133928.htm The Cloudbridge Project Goal 1. Preservation. The principals, Ian and Genevieve Giddy, identified a 60-hectare cattle farm that borders the Chirripó National Park at the northern end of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. In June 2002 they completed acquisition of this property, and subsequently the reserve was extended to Cloudbridge North and Gavilan and Catedral Verde and Los Quetzales and El Jilguero Cloudbridge now includes about 700 acres. Currently the team are working to inscribe the project into the government preservation and forestation programs. The property includes a significant portion of riparian and high-altitude mountainside virgin forest. Cattle grazing and its consequent denuding and erosive effects has been halted. In parts of the reserve, natural regrowth is taking place. Easements and other legal means will be employed to protect the forest in perpetuum. Goal 2. Reforestation. With the assistance of experts in Costa Rica, the local community, and volunteers from abroad, a program of careful multispecies tree planting has begun. This is being done in such a way as to extend and preserve the diversity of the surrounding virgin forests. The efforts include: Stage 1. Planting saplings. We began by planting about 4200 trees in 2002. Subsequent plantings have brought the number to over 10,000. Stage 2. Ongoing maintenance to help the trees survive. Stage 3. Parallel with the diversity project, a small portion of the reserve has been set aside for a demonstration project of sustainable forestry. Stage 4. To undertand what we are doing and to help others, we label, measure and monitor the trees' progress. As far as possible, we are attempting to restore the mix of trees and flora that is native to the surrounding area. With the assistance of specialists, we have compiled a list of trees and other flora from which selected species have been chosen for the reforestation project. Those who have helped us include Barry Hammel of INBio, David Knowles, Arno Finkeldy, Dick Andrus and Carl Leopold of the Tropical Forestry Initiative, Gravin Villegas of CATIE and the Chirripó National Park office, and local forestry experts Freddy Rojas and Ken Gallatin. Tim Woodruff of Land Assurance facilitated the initial property acquisition, and Jennifer Smith supervised the first round of tree planting. You can read a fuller account of the planting process. Goal 3. Research. From its beginnings as a reforestation project, Cloudbridge has evolved into an ongoing series of studies of the cloud forest. Some work is repeated year after year, to gauge the progress of the forest's recovery -- examples include the biomonitoring, plantation and moss recovery studies. Others focus on a particular aspect of the flora or fauna -- one study, for example, sought to measure the diversity and density of different tree species in the primary forest. Recreational Access. A further objective is to allow people to see the progress of the plantation and to hike the Reserve's steep slopes and enjoy the views of the valleys and waterfalls. Hiking trails have been laid out and are gradually being improved (your help with this would be welcome). You can view a map of the reserve with a description of the trails, or an overview of some of the trails. More adventurous hikers have access to the largely unexplored wilderness of Cloudbridge North . Please view more details about this project at: http://cloudbridge.org/context.htm The Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology at Pitzer College was established in March 2005 through international ecologist Diane Firestone’s generous gift of her stunningly beautiful farm, Finca La Isla del Cielo, near the town of Dominical, Costa Rica. Ms. Firestone dedicated over a decade of effort to bring the farm, once an overused and depleted cattle ranch, to its current state of natural restoration. She believes that, under Pitzer College’s stewardship, her vision for the farm will be realized and will have a wider educational impact on a broader audience. An ecological easement is being recorded to preserve the existing biodiversity of the property and limit non-educational development in the future. The Firestone Center is home to programs in Pitzer’s science, language, and international studies curricula, and provides opportunities for faculty research and student engagement in an intercultural context. The program features local collaborative resource management, especially of its own stand of harvestable timber bamboo, a focus on human and tropical ecology, the study of reforestation and sustainable agriculture/permaculture practices, and community- based education including intensive language and culture studies. Carol Brandt, Vice President for International Programs and External Studies, coordinates the work of the faculty who have been responsible for the program’s initial development, including Ethel Jorge for the Spanish language and culture components, Environmental Studies professors Paul Faulstich and Melinda Herold-Menzies for the human ecology components, and Joint Science Department members Donald McFarlane and Cheryl Baduini for the tropical ecology components. Costa Rican native Isabella Arguello is the on-site program director, and the first student team began working there during Summer 2005. The first full contingent of students were at the Center during the Fall 2005 semester. Please view more details about this project at: http://www.pitzer.edu/offices/firestone_center/ “La restauración ecologista del bosque tropical. Una alternativa de reforestación ambientalmente sana y socialmente justa y participativa” Check out this great story about people from a little Costa Rican community - a family and other Ticos - who realize the importance of pre-deforested natural systems and the benifits they receive from such systems, work together to restore a deforested, industrial monoculture tree farm area into healthy, productive forests. This outlines how collabarative efforts of people and organizations is possible and can lead to the restoration of deforested areas, as well as how this can benifit all the stakeholders The Association of Ecologist Communities La Ceiba – Friends of the Earth Costa Rica (Asociación Comunidades Ecologistas La Ceiba- Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica - COECOCEIBA- AT), which includes members from various social sectors (academics, professionals, ecologists and peasants), work to develop new models of forest cover restoration. The models they develop are models that are sounder in environmental terms and more participative and fair in social terms. COECOCEIBA- Amigos De La Tierra, Costa Rica, e-mail: email@example.com, http://www.coecoceiba.org
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