When the company, I worked for, issued an order to start a reforestation project for all the mined out areas, I was very excited and immediately concentrated my thinking on how to manage this gigantic charge to do the best we can, especially with the not so great results from an effort done in the late sixties and begin seventies. The first thing came to mind was, what is really essential to successfully reforest an Amazon Rainforest.
It is important to have some knowledge about the virgin forest. It is amazing to see how the Amazon Rainforest grows. The organic layer in the topsoil, which is ever recycling is in fact very thin, between one and two feet. The rooting is practically horizontal, as the rocks or in some places an underlain clay mineral (kaolin), prevent deeper rooting, except for the incidental occurrence of crevices in those rocks. It is due to the earlier mentioned recycling processes, the forest can sustain itself, with all heterogeneous vegetation.
Everybody who is planning to undo these natural processes, by clearing an area, without making a plan beforehand, how to restore the jungle after whatever activity he plans to develop, is looking for serious trouble. The jungle is only capable to sustain itself due to this very process of recycling and support between the various trees in this heterogeneous tree population. The latter becomes immediately evident when a part of the jungle is cleared, as the trees at the rim one by one start to fall down by itself as the support is missing. This goes especially for those trees, which were not rooted deeply enough due to the structure of the subsoil, which in most cases is hard rock or consist of the clay mineral “kaolin”.
Consider what to do before starting to clear the land. Make an extensive plan with saving of organic matter at a large scale in mind. In the example of the mine, we planned to push the trees to the areas outside the area to be mined or to be mined on a later date. The humus layer, although thin, ought to be stockpiled for later use, at a convenient area, preferably in some shadow. The significance of this procedure, will be illustrated next. If the mined out areas become available deep rip the kaolin floor and introduce the trees reduced to wood slivers, mixed with the original topsoil/humus. In the meantime, special crews with knowledge of the species, gather seedlings from the neighboring jungle adapt them in makeshift nurseries. Finally contract locals to plant the adapted seedlings in the rainy season and monitor the growth during the first one and a half year. Make sure to include a large number of leguminous species.
Execution of the plan
Issuing orders not to burn was an absolute must. This was, in detail discussed with nearby communities and with all the workers of the company, explaining that burning, not only means a loss of the needed organic matter, but also emit tremendous amounts of pollutants in the air for a long period. Imagine the resistance, with a habit of centuries of slash and burn practices. Close supervision remained an absolute must in the first year to spot violations of the order. I must say that, in general, the message did clearly convince workers and community very well. To convert all the organic matter, it was necessary to purchase a mobile tree shredder to diminish the trees to very small sized chips or slivers.
As in the meantime the mining process advanced and the mined out areas became available the haul trucks were diverted to the extra charge to haul this crushed tree material and the humus to those areas, mixing the two. The benefits of the humus will be explained now. The freshly crushed trees are not suitable as the substrate for the new growth, as they are not yet decomposed, to serve as nutrients. To speed up this process the humus serves as a catalyst, introducing the microbes, to help with that.
Once the mixed organic matter was spread out over the previously deep ripped kaolin of the mined out floor, it had to be covered, by introducing the new plants, which were gathered by special crews in the nearby standing jungle. The plantlets were moved to makeshift nurseries, to re-adapt them Then came up a new process, these small seedlings from the jungle needed to be planted.
As in most tropical rural areas all planting is done by women, so the plan included contracting the women from the villages, to do the populating of the newly prepared reforestation areas. This became a real success. In a matter of fewer than two years, the new growth reached a height of some 15 – 20 feet, helped by a rainfall of average 2500mm annually and plenty of sunshine in between.
The thinning of the densely planted areas is then only a task of nature. Competition and other laws of nature do their work and the new jungle is a fact, practically on autopilot. In very few cases, a cutlass will help to make it perfect.
Comparing this process with the previously reforested areas, a major improvement was evident, accomplished by a very coordinated effort from all staff and workers. The goals of reestablishing the Rainforest could only be reached due to this fact. The new growth will have to sustain itself again with an organic layer of approximately two feet and support of its neighboring trees.
As a special note, it should be said, that also the future habitats of the fauna species, should be included in the plan, by scattering some trunks through the area to provide some shelter. It will not, and did not, take long for these species, to go into the reforested areas, once the height of the trees will thin the undergrowth and give access to them to continue their natural processes of roaming, hunting, eating and taking care of their new offspring. A Rainforest is not complete, without the fauna, crawling, running or flying from one habitat to the other. Later this fauna will also reintroduce epiphytes.
This was a short description of an otherwise very complicated plan and execution, but I may say, with at the end, a very satisfying experience. If the planning is done right, the answer must be, Reforestation Is Not A Problem. Let us Save our Natural Resources http://alturl.com/9sznc
Extension The Role of Microbes in the Tropical Rainforest
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