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Saturday, June 16, 2012

One day, 600 trees: saving wild nature in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua


Volunteers from Guardabarranco Environmental Movement plant a tree with park guard staff from Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 

Nicaragua is fortunate to have Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, noted for the green of its forests and blue of its lake. The Ministry of Natural Resources designated June 15 as a big tree-planting day in the area, and we at FUNDECI/GAIA signed on. We had hundreds of small trees in our vivero, ready to be transplanted to begin their new lives as forest trees. Meetings were held, telephone calls were made, and an event happened. 

We don't like to count such things, because such counts undervalue the small contributions. But today, just that happened: lots of small contributions converged. The Guardabarranco Environmental Movement in Masaya coordinated the participation of volunteers and logistics with other offices in Nandasmo and Niquinohomo. The Masaya Departmental office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MARENA) coordinated with The Volcano Masaya National Park for resources. The Ministry of Health (MINSA) in Masaya contributed more transportation. FUNDECI/GAIA supplied volunteers, trees, transportation, and logistics. The park guards at Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve were all busy, too! And the local high school, Institute Jose Augusto Flores Zuniga, provided more volunteers. More trees were provided by the National Forestry Institute (INAFOR). 

Students enthusiastically plant trees, recuperating forest destroyed by traffic to La Abuela Hotel. The gate formerly used as entrance to the hotel is shown in the background. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We have recently been planting trees in one of the few public lands remaining in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Through this land,the owners of La Abuela Hotel had built a road without permission, and the community had earlier insisted in closing this road and recuperating the forest lost by the road construction. The road surface was compacted and impermeabilized, making natural regeneration difficult. We chose to plant along this road, thereby reclaiming the property as community domain and recovering the environmental services provided by trees instead of compacted earth.
Pablo and Florian distribute trees from Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo to the students of Instituto Jose Flores Zuniga for planting. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
Many of the trees-about three hundred-came from our vivero at Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo. This project is financed by FUNDECI/GAIA and entirely volunteer-run. Another three hundred trees were donated to MARENA by INAFOR. Our volunteers helped move the trees to the sites, perforate planting locations, settle the trees into their new homes, and pick up the associated trash and lots of other nearby plastic.
Sincolla (Annona purpurea) is very rare in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, but its fruit attracts many animals. We planted a few dozen individuals of this species in our activity. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
The trees were placed in their new homes by dozens of pairs of helping hands. While one crew worked to plant over the illegally constructed road, another worked along the roadside on the principal entrance road. The latter crew was headed by MARENA staff including some from the Masaya Volcano National Park. Hundreds of new, little trees now line the shoulder of the entrance road.

Some trees were especially noted precious wood species, such as Short-leaf Mahogany (Swietenia humilis), Guapinol (Hymenaea courbaril), and Rosewood (Dalbergia retusa). Many other species were included, however. Several leguminous trees such as Aromo (Vachellia farnesiana), Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), Poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), and Madero Negro (Gliricida sepium).
Individual volunteers came in response to our notices on Facebook, as well as members of the school and environmental groups. Even pregnancy did not detain some volunteers! Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The climate cooperated, with no rain and sun partially blocked by clouds. The cool, quiet morning made planting easy, and we found ourselves immersed in the project for hours. New friends were made and lots of trees were planted!
Volunteers came to help with the tree planting from the neighboring towns: Granada, Masaya, Nandasmo, Nindiri, and Niquinohomo. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We learned how motivated people in Nicaragua can become when they think they can make a difference. Dozens of Nicaraguans joined the cause, some of them giving only an hour before running to work. Nicaraguans appreciate the natural beauty of their country, and they are willing to work to keep it beautiful. By participating in a tree-planting activity, people demonstrate that they care about Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and want to keep it green and natural. 

Foreign volunteers and Spanish students at Estacion Biologica helped plant trees, alongside the Nicaraguans. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We did not have lots of shovels and other tools, so shovels were passed from person to person and holes were dug as quickly as possible. in some points, the rains had softened the earth enough to open holes with machetes. The soils of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve are easily drained, and the road had been treated with sand which also aids in drainage.
Event coordinator Ilse Diaz from Movimiento Ambiental Guardabarranco proudly plants a Nambar, known in English as Honduran Rosewood (Dalbergia retusa). This species has fine wood which has brought it to the brink of extinction. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Unlike most tree planting activities, we planted more than a dozen species of trees among our six hundred trees. Our seed collections during the year are diverse and the trees for planting which survive to several centimeters height, ready for transplanting to a reforestation site, are of dozens of different species, most of which germinate with difficulty.


Thanks to the Movimiento Ambiental Guardabarranco groups from Nandasmo and Niquinohomo! Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
Each planted tree was staked to assist in making it visible, to reduce the likelihood that it would be trampled. Scraps of clay (trash dumped from La Abuela Hotel!) were recycled to augment their visibility, too. Our volunteers were energetic and resourceful. 

Saving Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, one tree at a time! Many trees were planted in milk bags, reused as reforestation bags to reduce plastic waste. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
At the end of the day: 75 volunteer reforestation participants, 600 trees planted, 11 bags of trash removed, and lots of joy spread. All of us were happy we had spent part of our morning planting trees. 


High school students volunteered their efforts in planting trees in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Would you like to volunteer in our reforestation project? We have lots of work to do to prepare our vivero, plant trees in the forest, maintain and care for the small trees until they are self-sustaining, and organize activities such as this one. Please consider spending some time with us as a reforestation volunteer. You get your hands dirty for a great cause, and you learn a lot about nature and Nicaragua in the process. Come by and speak with our director, Jeffrey McCrary, or any of our staff at Estacion Biologica.
Park guards and volunteers all celebrate a job well-done! Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
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