Sustainable Development and Wild Nature Conservation in NICARAGUA
Be a Eco-Warrior volunteer with the GAIA Program at Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve in Nicaragua.
Contact us for special prices in 2017.
Saving Wild Forests, One Tree at a Time
Students from Goshen College volunteer in the reforestation and
natural forest restoration project at EstaciÓn Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.
Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Reforestation is much more than planting trees. A healthy forest
requires the commitment of the landowners, the local community, and the municipal and central governmental authorities. For any reforestation
project to succeed over the several years necessary to yield a profit or concrete result, all sectors must constantly perceive benefits
from the project. GAIA is working with the local communities in two protected areas to reforest ecologically damaged
sites and to help to provide for basic human needs sustainably in poor, rural communities, by providing trees and organizational skills to
Eco-Warrior environmental volunteers planted these trees which are soon to be part of the natural forest at Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.
Photo Giselle Hernández.
Most reforestation projects worldwide are about growing one or a few species of trees as crops,
with tree choices made based on production objectives. Returning a deforested site to natural forest, however, requires that many tree species
be utilized, particularly in the tropics, where the species richness is huge. Furthermore, strong restrictions or even complete prohibition
on wood harvesting must be applied, affecting the economic viability
of the process. Restoring natural forests in natural areas requires special knowledge of the biology of dozens of tree species, commitment
of the actors involved, and an economic benefit that offsets the wood production opportunity cost. We have developed a reforestation
program which is based on principles of restoration
ecology, to recover natural forest in ecologically damaged areas of a natural forest, including the following guidelines:
1. Develop partnerships with land owners and the community to assure long-term protection of the reforested areas.
2. Only plant trees native to the location when in a natural area, and appropriate to the specific site circumstances.
3. Emphasize protection of environmental services and biodiversity by planting multiple species in planting schemes that minimize erosion.
4. Utilize seed stocks recovered from the immediate area.
5. Reforestation activities timing should correspond to the natural seasonal cycle.
6. Utilize local and reusable materials in the activities to minimize environmental impacts.
7. Implement monitoring and custodial procedures to maximize tree survival after planting.
Natural Forest Restoration in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve
GAIA staff have facilitated agreements between local landowners, the municipal
government, and the Ministry of Natural
Resources to reforest lands in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. The lands treated are specified for natural forest according to the approved
Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve management plan. These landowners enter into voluntary agreements to reforest specified lands
and restore the natural forest composition and structure.
Eco-Warrior environmental volunteers participate in all the aspects of natural forest restoration
in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Here, a volunteer fills bags with compost made from kitchen waste at
Estación Biológica. Photo
Over 400 native plant species have been documented in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve to date, so any
extensive forest restoration should reflect the great diversity in tree species found in the natural forest. Successful reforestation protocols
can be found for a handful of these species, especially caoba (mahogany; Swietenia humilis) and cedro (royal cedar;
Cedrela odorata), but reforestation procedures have not been tested on many other species, because they are not important production
wood species. Our staff and interns work on developing best germination techniques and reforestation practices for tree species which are not
normally planted in production forests.
Our vivero (tree nursery) is located in Estación Biológica in
Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We collect seeds from local forests to promote the protection of
local genetic stocks.
We reforest with seeds that we collect in the forests of Laguna de Apoyo
Nature Reserve, to maintain genetic stocks native to the area. Volunteers collect and process seeds for reforestation
according to the appropriate season. Photo Belén Camino.
Trees for Rural Settlements in Chiltepe Peninsula Nature Reserve
GAIA provided trees for shade and for fruits to
poor local residents and conducts tree planting with children of the local school, "Escuela Rural Héroes and
Mártires de Xiloá". By involving the
local community in the planting and maintenance of trees
and the sustainable use of forest resources, we can identify problems and propose solutions that may be more
effective in improving standards of living and making forest protection work sustainably.
Our forest habitat restoration project in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is fueled completely by volunteer participation.
You can participate in our reforestation project as a volunteer. Only moderate Spanish capability is recommended.
Activities vary according to the season, but include: seed collection and preparation, soil and compost preparation,
nursery planting and maintenance, transfer of saplings to forest plots, and plot maintenance. This project combines the idealism that one
could seek in environmental volunteering with moderate to heavy physical labor and lots of nature around.
Volunteering does not require special knowledge or even a lot of physical strength.
There are activities that anyone can do, and added together, we help to save the planet, one tree at a time! Photo
GAIA is active throughout Nicaragua. Our office is located at
Estación Biológica in Laguna de
Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua, where we operate the Biological Research Station and Hostel, conduct
a number of research and conservation projects throughout Nicaragua, and provide Spanish language instruction to volunteers and professionals
at Apoyo Spanish School. We also offer opportunities for volunteering in biology, natural resource management,
education. and community organization areas. You are invited to visit us on the shore of Laguna de Apoyo. Contact us by email, or by telephone 011-505-8882-3992.
You can help us keep nature wild in Nicaragua, by volunteering your time with us or making a small donation to support
our projects in wild nature conservation.
Read more about reforestation and natural habitat restoration activities with GAIA in our
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GAIA harvests tree seeds directly from the forest in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve to grow new trees for
reforestation, thus maintaining genetic integrity. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Tree planting brigades can plant up to hundreds of trees in a single day, but real success in natural forest restoration comes from the attention
given to the planted trees over the next couple of years, until the tree grows large enough to withstand trampling, predation and fire. Photo
The vivero at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo is stocked with native species grown using compost made from organic waste and recycled
materials such as plastic milk bags and soft drink bottles. Photo
Volunteers from MARENA, Movimiento Ambientalista Guardabarranco, and Gaia plant trees in an affected area in Volcano Masaya
National Park. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Eco-Warrior reforestation volunteers working in a plot with several trees already reaching five and six meters. Photo Jen Moran.
A Pacific short-leaf mahogany (Swietenia humilis planted by reforestation volunteers at Estación Biológica has reached six meters height
after four years, and is already providing important environmental services to this denuded steep slope. Photo Giselle Hernández.
Manager of Estación Biológica and Gaia staff botanist, Pablo Somarriba is giving a training to Eco-Warrior Volunteers on seed handling and preparation.
Photo Jen Moran.
Seedlings are grown out during the dry season, to be planted in reforestation plots in the rainy season. Photo Lu Davidson.
Students of Instituto José Flores Zúñiga participate with Gaia in planting trees in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.
Photo Jeffrey Mccrary.