164 Evaluating cloud forest restoration: Citizen science and the beginning of long-term monitoring in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Thursday, August 6, 2009
Exhibit Hall NE & SE, Albuquerque Convention Center
Patricia A. Townsend , Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background/Question/Methods Citizen organized tree planting programs are popular worldwide, which are organized with the hope that reforestation will provide a 20 to 30 year jump on succession.  Unfortunately, in most cases little work has been done to evaluate the success of these programs, and their effectiveness at restoring functioning ecosystems and biodiversity.  The Society for Ecological Restoration recommends incorporating monitoring and assessment into any restoration program to allow adaptive management of restoration.  In the Monteverde region of Costa Rica, reforestation programs have planted over a million trees in the past 20 years, primarily in abandoned pastures. I have initiated a collaboration with the cloud forest school to evaluate the success of a reforestation project in an abandoned pasture on the school’s 110 acre campus.  Students (K to 11) and volunteers began reforesting this pasture in 2001.  I have set-up ten permanent plots to assess native tree species recruitment, ground cover, and canopy development within two different reforestation techniques; a dense planting of fast growing Inga sp compared to a mixture of native species.  To initiate citizen science research  I have designed methods for monitoring of the permanent plots by high school students and volunteers at the Cloud Forest School to assess the long term success of the this project.
Results/Conclusions Preliminary results indicate that the plots with Inga trees are more effective at beginning to restore a functioning forest ecosystem than plots with a mixture of native trees.  The plots with the Inga trees had a lower density of non-native grass and have begun to accumulate leaf litter.  Plots with Inga trees also have a higher number of native animal dispersed tree seedlings.  Results on plant diversity are pending.  As the project progresses, I will be analyzing data collected by students and volunteers, for comparison to my data to determine the reliability of citizen science data.  Based on those data, I will recommend adjustments to the data collection protocols, to allow students to reliably collect data on an annual basis.  This long term data will help allow a more definitive evaluation of the effectiveness of Inga plantings compared to mixed species plantings at restoring the cloud forest ecosystem and biodiversity.
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