Since 1998 the Monteverde Institute has been at the forefront of reforestation in the forests of Costa Rica. In that effort we have planted more than 250,000 trees. Each year our two nurseries provide around 14,000 young trees to the local communities and preserves as well as an additional 3,000+ to several research forests that the Institute manages. We have produced more than 140 different species to replant in our forest, but have given special attention to several endemic trees that are critically endangered.

More than thirty years ago the Costa Rica Ministry of Agriculture encouraged landowners to cut down forests and to plant replacement forests of pine and cipres (to produce wood that was marketable as lumber). One of the most important uses they recommended, which has proven beneficial, is that they were planted as windbreaks. The windbreaks provide valuable wildlife corridors. The problem with the nonnative species, however, is that they do not support the local ecosystems, which suffered. Now those non native forests are being cut down, used as lumber, firewood, etc, and we and others are in the process of rebuilding those threatened ecosystems.

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OUR RECOVERY STORY

Costa Rica has been the most successful country in the world in recovering their forests. Originally the forests covered 85% of the country, but largely because of this ill-advised policy, by the 1970s Costa Rica was only 35% forested; as of 2017 we have about 52% forest cover. But we have a long way to go.

Many of the trees are critically endangered, so we have concentrated on them. One example is the Ocotea monteverdensis, endemic to Monteverde. It is the main source of food for important species of birds like the Resplendent Quetzal and Three-wattled Bellbird. Once the forest contained thousands of mature O. monteverdensis, but today there may be around 700. Last year alone we planted 1500 and for the time being will continue emphasizing this important species.

While no one knows how long it will take for them to return to being primary forests, the secondary forests are already having positive effects. Where only a few years ago there were coffee trees or pastures filled with grasses and grazing cattle, guava trees and agave plants, now there is protective cover for a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Guava tree, left, and Agave plant, right, being surrounded by secondary growth forest.

Guava tree, left, and Agave plant, right, being surrounded by secondary growth forest.

Myrsine corralis (Ratoncillo)

Myrsine corralis (Ratoncillo)

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One of our studies at Finca Rodriguez (until 2003 a coffee farm), is to determine how much support in addition to new trees does a forest need to recover. In Plot 1, planted in 2017, the existing trees had our seedlings planted among them and the plot was left wild, but we maintained the surroundings of the plot. In Plot 2, in 2016 we planted our seedlings and kept the grass mowed around them, so the young trees had the greatest amount of sunlight and water possible. In Plot 3 in 2015, we planted among the coffee trees and did nothing more, allowing other plants to come in naturally. While it is too soon to tell for sure, it seems at this point that, surprisingly, Plot 3 is doing the best.

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In addition to what they provide for the environment, our regenerating forests are filled with opportunities for researchers in a wide variety of fields, and for those who wish to volunteer to help raise funds and/or plant trees.

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Each year we let the communities along the Bellbird Corridor know how many trees we have and what varieties that are available for planting. To ensure that as many trees as possible survive, we provide guidance in types of trees, where to plant, and help in placement on their individual land. All trees are provided free of charge to community members who live in the Bellbird Corridor.

Randy Chinchilla Ramos is the GIS Coordinator, and Reforestation Coordinator. If you have questions about the Reforestation or GIS programs, or if you are interested in doing research in our regrowing forests, you can contact Randy at: gis@mvinstitute.org.

Julio Rojas Elizondo is the coordinator between the nursery workers, scientists, and landowners, including providing individual advice for the various projects.

The reforestation program is one of the best ways we have to share with the community of Monteverde the importance of restoring ecosystems, protect the water and conserve both natives and other important species.

Landowners are seeing the value of trees on their properties and are grateful to have the support to improve their land for themselves and for the environment.”

Various communities are increasingly mutually supportive in the reforestation effort. In addition to adding more trees the program is restoring soils, creating habit for animals and plants, improving water quality, restoring springs and furthering the economic development and stability of the area. We are grateful to see that our local friends are excited to work together to make the change, and to see the benefits.

If you wish to donate to this program please visit:

https://monteverde-institute.org/donate-support.html

You can also visit our Reforestation Program section at our webpage by clicking HERE

HOW DOES OUR REFORESTATION PROGRAM CYCLE LOOKS LIKE?

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WHAT ARE SOME OF OUR ACHIEVEMENTS FOR THIS YEAR?

  • We planted 13,960 trees along the Bellbird Biological Corridor. These included species appropriate for all the different life zones in the Corridor.

  • In the lower zones we planted around 1,600 trees of 26 different native species. These were planted on three farms on Isla Cortezas.

  • In addition we established a small nursery in conjunction with the Asociación de Mujeres Mariposas de Golfo on the Costa de Pajaros Island. It began with 810 bags of young trees that included 80 species that are native to the area.

  • In Manzanillo we distributed fruit trees to various members of the community and planted trees at the community school.

Many groups and individuals have helped with our reforestation program including National Geographic Tours, G-Adventures, Collette Travel, Sun Tours, Change the World Kids, Terri Mallory, and the Adventure Girls. 

WHAT SPECIES ARE GROWN AND HOW DO POTENTIAL PLANTERS FIND OUT WHAT IS THE BEST FOR THEM?

We are happy to visit a local site and to advise individuals and organizations what species would be right for them. Each year, after we have counted and evaluated what we have, we advertise to the community.

Written by Robert W. Howe

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