Sharing experiences in Forest Restoration Pilot Sites Promoted by IUCN and Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala

20 September 2012 | News story

During July various trips for sharing experiences were made to forest restoration and natural regeneration demonstration sites promoted by IUCN and Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala in the upper parts of the Coatán and Suchiate watersheds, with representatives of the private sector and the Coatán Basin Committee of Mexico, members of the Costa Rica-Panama Sixaola River Basin entity, members of the Naranjo River Associated Municipalities, representatives of the National Department of Rural Outreach of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Security and the Zaragoza municipality, Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

San Marcos, Guatemala, July 2012 (IUCN) – In 2006, IUCN together with Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (USAC) and supported by the National Science and Technology Council (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología–CONCYT), began research on the evaluation and characterization of secondary plant succession and proposals for ecological restoration around the areas with pinabete, or “Guatemalan fir” (Abies guatemalensis Rehder) in the upper parts of the Coatán and Suchiate river basins, department of San Marcos.

Forest restoration is a human activity that imitates or accelerates ecological succession, the process by which an ecosystem regenerates naturally; it can thus be considered human-assisted ecological succession. The aim of forest regeneration is thus to recover degraded areas, expand forest cover on lands with this vocation and restore ecosystems where the forest in its assemblage of species carries out hydrological regulation. Voluntary productive activities are promoted on plantations so that pinabete can be used for commercial purposes.

Several organizations and institutions in the watershed expressed interest in learning about the processes carried out in the upper Coatán and Suchiate basins, so trips were organized to share experiences. The emphasis was on IUCN and USAC-promoted forest restoration in degraded areas near pinabete forests, after failed reforestation attempts due to extreme climate conditions in the zone. Municipal government has played a significant role, as in the case of Ixchiguán which has promoted forest restoration on the Cotzic hill through a municipal agreement.

Trips to the field highlighted the importance of re-establishing ecosystems primarily degraded by human activities and animal species (mainly sheep and goats). Thanks to IUCN and USAC efforts to research and systematize local experiences, activities were carried out for forest restoration in these ecosystems, in some cases taking advantage of the existence of nurse plants (Baccharis vaccinioides, Acaena elongata, Stevia polycephala, Symphoricarpos microphyllus, Rubus trilobus and Buddleia megalocephala). This is the case presented in Violetas de San José Ojetenam, located some 70 km from San Marcos at an elevation of 3100m above sea level, where the community has comprehended the importance of conserving and protecting the forest to ensure water supply and income from selling Christmas trees.

The main conclusions of participants on these trips related to the importance of restoring forest on upper watersheds, where they carry out important regulatory functions, especially in terms of water. They also help minimize effects of climate change, mainly latent threats from severe rains and drought. Among other opinions, visitors felt forest restoration could be applied in lower areas and with different species with the same aim of recovering forest mass.

Approximately 75,000 people live in the area where pinabete grows. IUCN has organized microwatershed councils, mostly comprised of associations, cooperatives and the community development councils (consejos comunitarios de desarrollo-COCODES). The watershed management plans include projects for conservation and ecological restoration of water recharge zones to ensure water quality, quantity and continuity for users, mainly for human consumption and irrigation. Unlike conventional reforestation carried out without satisfactory results, ecological restoration is a practice that can be used for restoring ecosystems. The survival rate in this modality after a year is 84%±5.42 versus 24%±17.38 in conventional reforestation over the same period, demonstrating the effectiveness of its application to forest reforestation.

For more information contact:

Ottoniel Rivera Mazariegos
Technical Officer
IUCM Livelihoods and Climate Change Unit for San Marcos, Guatemala
IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and Caribbean Initiative
Tel: 00502-5966-6957 and 00502-5918-0317