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Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project in Puerto Rico

• May 12, 2012 • Comments (0)

Silvicultural techniques developed and applied at Las Casas de la Selva over the last two decades, demonstrate, that on a small scale in Puerto Rico, secondary forests can be ecologically and economically suitable for sustainable timber production. This eco-technology was implemented to encourage similar practice in the Caribbean and globally, as a contribution to economic development that encourages protection and sustainable management of secondary tropical forests.


HISTORY

Established in 1983, the land known as Las Casas de la Selva is the home of Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry Project. It is located in the southern mountains of the island, adjacent to the Carité State Forest. It is a spectacular site with steep thickly-forested slopes, and beautiful rivers and waterfalls.

The Institute of Ecotechnics initiated this unique project in Patillas, Puerto Rico, pioneering experiments in sustainable rainforest ecology, through line-planting of valuable timber trees. The aim of the project is to maintain the biomass and biodiversity of the ecosystem while the land is utilized, to a degree, for enough profit to encourage local caretaking of the forest.

Using this approach, nearly 300 acres of the 1000-acre property have been planted with over 40,000 native and exotic hardwood trees with extremely promising results, working in cooperation with the Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources, and The International Institute of Tropical Forestry. The valuable contribution of this method to the rainforest environment has seen Las Casas recognized as an ‘auxiliary forest’ in the US national park system of classification, and in 2011 the project was certified under The Forest Stewardship Program.

Tropic Ventures Education & Research Foundation was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit corporation in Puerto Rico to support the project’s research and education activities.

RESEARCH

In the context of global increases in deforestation, demonstrating long-term methods for economic utilization of previously disturbed secondary forests is valuable for giving alternatives to forest clear-cutting or conversion of land to grazing or agriculture, helping reduce pressure on the economic exploitation of pristine rainforest areas globally. Between 2000 and 2011, with the support of The Earthwatch Institute volunteers and other volunteers, we have collected data resulting in these publications:

2011. ‘Enriched secondary subtropical forest through line-planting for sustainable timber production in Puerto Rico’. Bois et Forets des Tropiques, #309 (3): 51-61.

2010. ‘The impact of Hardwood Line-Planting on Tree and Amphibian Diversity in a Secondary Subtropical Wet Forest of Southeast Puerto Rico’. Journal of Sustainable Forestry, 29(5): 503-516.


ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION & ECOLOGICAL MAINTENANCE

Tropic Ventures holds over half the property at Las Casas de la Selva in its natural state as a rainforest preserve. This area provides a protected habitat for Puerto Rican native flora and fauna as well as a long-term study site for research, facilitating public and student familiarization in the areas of ecology, botany, forestry, horticulture, soil, ethnobotany, and other related environmental disciplines. Soil protection and erosion control are high priority activities, and planting trees has worked to stabilize and enrich eroded areas on the property. It is important to protect the property’s three main watersheds which feed into Lake Patillas, the main reservoir, that supplies drinking water for a population of approximately 200,000 people in the neighboring districts. A demonstration Wastewater Garden was built on the homestead in 2004.

Want to volunteer? Please see here for more information.

Thrity Vakil, Director.

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