Reforestation and Natural Habitat Restoration


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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 the communities.

volunteer Nicaragua

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.

volunteer Nicaragua

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 Jeffrey McCrary.

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.

volunteer Nicaragua

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.

Reforestation Volunteering

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.

volunteer Nicaragua

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 Jeffrey McCrary.

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 blog.

Reforestation in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve IV

Reforestation in Volcano Masaya National Park

Reforestation in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve III

One day, 600 trees: Reforesting Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve

Saving wild nature in Nicaragua by reforesting

Reforestation in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve II

Volunteers saving wild Nicaragua: Reforestation in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve I

Environmental Program In Defense of Nature

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Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

Animals of Laguna de Apoyo

Spanish Studies and Volunteering in Laguna de Apoyo

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tree seeds

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 Jeffrey McCrary.



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 Frank Lindt.



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.