Public Release: 

Smithsonian hosts Mesoamerican conference on reforestation with native trees

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Teak, Caribbean pine and a few other, fast-growing, non-native trees have been the species of choice for reforestation and restoration projects in Latin America in the past. However, native tree species are often better suited to local conditions, more resistant to pests and disease, and of equal or greater timber value.

On January 21-22, 2010, the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative, ELTI, and the Native Species Reforestation Project, PRORENA, joint initiatives of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, will host a group of experts from countries around the region including Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil, who will share their experiences with native species reforestation and land restoration projects, a growing business in Panama.

"This conference celebrates the coming of age of reforestation with native species in Panama and the region. We had ideas about how this would work, but now we have actually had time to see them take root. The presentations will sum up experiences from around Mesoamerica and will highlight important initiatives in the Canal area and elsewhere," said Jefferson Hall, director of applied ecology at STRI's Center for Tropical Forest Science.

Eva Garen, Coordinator of ELTI's Neotropics Training Program adds, "the conference will also explore the human dimensions of native species reforestation efforts, recognizing the fundamental role that rural communities play in transforming, managing and restoring forested and agricultural landscapes and their ecosystem services."

The conference, to be held at the Smithsonian's Earl S. Tupper Center in Panama, will consist of four panel presentations. "Where, When, Why and How?" will share data and experiences from field experiments in Panama and the region. "Restoring Environmental Services," will consider the implications of reforestation projects in the restoration of water cycles, carbon sequestration and biodiversity. The third group of panelists will treat "Native Trees in Agroforestry and Silvopastoral Systems," or the role of native trees in small-scale agriculture and cattle ranching. Finally, a fourth set of panelists will address the cultural aspects of reforestation with native species, "The Use and Management of Native Trees by Rural Landholders."

"Our job is to translate the scientific results we have from experimental work with native trees into information that can be used by decision-makers, conservationists and land holders," said Javier Mateo-Vego, ELTI director.

Presenters include Mateo-Vega, ELTI, Mark Ashton, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Jefferson Hall, STRI, Catherine Potvin, McGill University and STRI, Jack Ewel, University of Florida, Lynn Carpenter, University of California, Irvine, Rebecca Cole, University of California, Santa Cruz, Heidi Asbijornson, Iowa State University, Mitchell Aide, University of Puerto Rico, Serius Gandolfi, University of Sao Paulo, Shibu Jose, University of Missouri, Celia Harvey, Conservation International, Florencia Montagnini, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Stewart Diemont, State University of New York, Enrique Murgueitio Restrepo, Center for Research on Sustainable Farming Systems, Johnny Cuevas, Panama Canal Authority, Adrian Barrance, Overseas Development Institute, Eva Garen, ELTI, Gerald Murray, University of Florida, and Alfonso Suarez Islas, Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo, Mexico.

Simultaneous translation in English and Spanish will be available and the presentations will be video recorded.

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