Sunday, September 6, 2009

Endangered Wildlife and Reforestation

Sara the Jaguar need trees
One of the important aspects of tropical tree reforestation and afforestation activities is expanded habitat for endangered wildlife. However, there a couple of caveats that must be considered. As discussed in yesterday's blog mono-culture plantations do very little for wildlife, because most creatures are niche dependent. This means that a good reforestation and afforestation project should be based on a multi-species approach. It should include the planting of native tree species (trees that are local) and fruit trees, so that the new habitat can provide food as well as shelter. This is the methodology employed by Amazonia Reforestation and their afforestation program in Vichada, Colombia.

Macaws need more habitat
The other caveat is that the tropical tree plantation must harvest in stages, so that the wildlife is not faced with a clear cut. This is best achieved in multi-species plantations, because the trees mature at different times and can therefore be selectively logged at different times. This approach allows the plantation to plant replacement trees in the areas that have been selectively harvested, so that the forest is maintained. Since the fruit trees would rarely be cut, they will start to form anchor points with in the new forest that wildlife can depend upon. This type of reforestation and afforestation benefits a variety of creatures, such as (1) monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, possums, sloths and other mammals, (2) birds like parrots, macaws and parakeets, who all depend on fruit and native nut trees for their survival, (3) reptiles like iguanas, boa constrictors, vipers, anacondas and tortoises, (4) amphibians like frogs, salamanders and newts, and (5) the many decorative fish that live in creeks, quebradas and caƱos and depend on the forest for food and shaded waters.

Green iguanas of the Orinoco basin
One often forgotten beneficiary of reforestation is insect and worm life, specifically species that are rarely seen out in the open, but which play important roles in ecology and in the environment.  These insects convert deadfall into food for the trees, breakdown pollutants and improve the soil. They also provide food to many creatures that use the forest as habitat, and therefore form an indispensable link in the food chain. Needless to say, a healthy forest also supplies an entire level of additional activity that is either invisible to the human eye or ignored by us, such as bacteria, fungi, lichens, mosses and a variety of single and multi-cell organisms that are so important for life on Earth.

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