When World Land Trust (WLT) has helped a partner organisation create a protected nature reserve, it is sometimes necessary to use tree planting to restore forests lost prior to purchase or to reconnect areas of forest habitat.
In the future, tree planting supported by WLT may be extended to further partner organisations in other countries.
The aim of the Plant a Tree appeal is to support planting of native trees to reconnect fragmented habitat and provide additional food sources for bird and animal populations.
Fundación Jocotoco’s Jorupe Reserve is located at the very southern tip of Ecuador, close to the Peruvian border and protects an important part of Tumbesian dry forest.
The forests of this region are some of the most species rich on Earth but are also some of the most threatened, with less than 5 per cent of the original forest remaining.
Jorupe Reserve protects around 2,965 acres (1,200 hectares) of deciduous forest, which is home to many threatened and endemic species of plants and animals.
Other projects in Ecuador:
Other projects in Brazil:
WLT’s partner organisations use a mixture of tree planting and assisted natural regeneration to protect and re-establish habitats.
Habitats can often regenerate naturally if certain barriers are removed or controlled, for example stopping cattle grazing, limiting fire, or removing invasive species.
Where tree planting is necessary, funding from WLT’s Plant a Tree appeal supports a process that begins, in many reserves, with the collection of seeds from forest trees to raise in the reserve’s nursery.
Trees selected for planting are a mixture of native species that grow naturally in nearby, established forest.
Once the saplings are planted out on the reserve, they are checked and monitored to ensure successful establishment.
Growth is usually fast, and fruiting species provide a food source for wildlife within a couple of years.
Planting programmes use native pioneer species which are quick to establish and can shade out competition from invasive grasses, for example, and restore soil condition.
Pioneer species are mixed with slower growing second stage trees of particular biodiversity value to enrich the species mix of second stage natural regeneration under the pioneer cover.
Monitoring has shown, in Brazil in particular, an immediate positive impact on avifauna. The trees planted are a mix of species found in the surrounding primary forest.
Tree species planted in Ecuador include:
- Tabebuia billbergii and Tabebuia chrysantha
- Ficus obtusifolia
- Guazuma ulmifolia
- Triplaris cumingiana
- Terminalia valverdeae
Tree species planted in Brazil include:
- Anadenanthera macrocarpa
- Cassia ferruginea
- Tabebuia alba
- Virola oleifera
- Nectandra megapotamica
- Euterpe edulis
Tree planting enables WLT’s partner organisations to join up fragmented forests, creating a continuous habitat for birds and other mammals.
For wide ranging animals, a large territory is essential as it gives them room to hunt, forage and avoid conflict with people.
Linking fragmented areas of forest can also help strengthen a species’ gene pool, by allowing separated populations to meet.
Birds protected in Ecuador include: More than 50 bird species including the rare Henna‐Hooded Foliage‐Gleaner (Hylocryptus erythrocephalus), King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Ochre-bellied Dove (Leptotila ochraceiventris), Blackish-headed Spinetail (Synallaxis tithys), Watkins’s Antpitta (Grallaria watkinsi), Grey-breasted Flycatcher (Lathrotriccus griseipectus), and White-tailed Jay (Cyanocorax mystacalis).
Nature reserves funded by WLT are rich in biodiversity, yet much of the habitat has previously been degraded and fragmented by agriculture, timber extraction or infrastructure for human habitation.
Small patches of fragmented forest are particularly vulnerable.
For example, species diversity is reduced, fewer animal and invertebrate pollinators are present and a high proportion of the trees are subject to encroaching vegetation on the forest boundary. So even if this habitat is turned into a protected nature reserve, it will continue to degrade unless it is successfully managed.
Many tree planting projects fail because there is no strict maintenance and monitoring process in place to secure the long-term success of the reforestation.
This is largely because it is labour intensive, time consuming, and costs money. But without a long-term maintenance plan, tree planting can be futile.
All WLT's partner organisations implement a comprehensive maintenance and monitoring plan to ensure that the saplings grow well for at least 10 years, after which the trees are deemed to be mature and natural mortality rates will be low.
Tumbesian dry forests are under increasing pressure, particularly from expanding farms. The Andean and Western coastal provinces are most at threat due to the relatively high human population density in this area.
Fundación Jocotoco owns and protects nine nature reserves. As well as assisting in land purchase across many of the reserves, WLT has previously helped to reforest degraded lands at four of them, thanks to support from WLT’s corporate supporters.