Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens

Jardin Botanico Las Orquideas

Restoring pasture to rainforest in Ecuador

Posted on 17 July 2014

The Jardin Botanico Las Orquideas is a restored forest located in 6 ha of rainforest pasture. This area of the Amazon is particularly poor in soil fertility, and natural re-vegetation is often slow and dominated by few pioneer species. Traditional indigenous cultures used a shifting cultivation method involving clearing of 1-3 ha patches followed by 2-5 years of cultivation and then allowing natural re-vegetation. However, the last 50 years of development in the region is dominated by clearing, a few years of cultivation, followed by cattle grazing.  Since 1980 at Jardin Botanico Las Orquideas the land has been restored from its eroded state into a secondary forest. Manual restoration activities have included using sawdust to smother pasture grass and fertilization with chicken manure, decomposed sawdust, sugar cane biomass waste, and kitchen compost, as well as plantings from seed, cutting, and seedling. For the past 10 years the garden has been more or less self sustaining, with some addition of fertilizer and weeding around occasional plants. The garden is known locally for expertise in forest restoration, and has been occasionally asked to conduct training sessions for local landowners. Much of our interpretative museum is focused on a photographic history / inventory of the faunal colonization of the garden, offering visitors a chance to observe the changes in the garden over the years.

The Garden would like to do more outreach and educational activities with local landowners about the restoration methods, however, most local forestation activities focus more on timber production. Discussions are being held with local and national government authorities for them to acquire neighbouring land and create a public forest reserve, allowing the Garden to increase the effective conservation size of its property.

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