Bringing new life to degraded forests in Madagascar

forestry …

Challenge was led by Va. Tech undergraduate scholar Chris Logan, professor Leighton Reid

Chris Logan ’22 instructs Inexperienced Once more employees in restoration monitoring in Malagasy. (photograph courtesy of Leighton Reid)

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Madagascar accommodates 5 % of the world’s recognized vegetation and animals, and 80 % of these are solely discovered on the island nation that’s positioned off the coast of East Africa. However deforestation is threatening the nation’s biodiversity on account of the truth that greater than 40 % of its forests have been cleared over the previous 70 years. To deal with the issue, the federal government has dedicated to restoring 4 million hectares — greater than 9.8 million acres — by 2030.

To be able to assist with these efforts, a staff of Virginia Tech researchers within the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences explored strategies to enhance plantings throughout jap Madagascar’s dry season.

The venture was led by undergraduate scholar Chris Logan and Leighton Reid, assistant professor within the Faculty of Plant and Environmental Sciences, in partnership with nonprofit Inexperienced Once more Madagascar.

“This venture is a superb instance of collaboration between ecologists and practitioners to resolve a bottleneck drawback in tropical forest restoration,” Reid mentioned.

The staff of researchers labored at Parc Ivoloima, a forestry station and zoological park close to Toamasina, the place the dry season runs from August to December and a cyclone season from January to March.

They discovered that choosing the right tree species and decreasing transplant shock through the use of rustic shade buildings from supplies which are available is essential to make sure long-term success. Whereas extra everlasting picket buildings might be used, they don’t seem to be available and are price prohibitive for Malagasy farmers, as many sometimes earn lower than $2 a day.

From October 2014 to January 2015, 369 seedlings that characterize 17 native tree species have been planted. Many of the seedlings have been 4 to eight inches tall.

They used a round planting design with a central tree seedling surrounded by a hoop of eight seedlings, separated by about 6 toes.

Controls, which didn’t obtain soil amendments, watering, or shade, have been planted within the heart. The eight surrounding seedlings acquired shading with 4 fronds of a ruderal fern.

The fronds have been positioned in a cone form to permit short-term shade with out inhibiting progress. The apply is commonly utilized by Malagasy farmers. The researchers famous a 75 % discount in transplant shock, suggesting that intense photo voltaic radiation is a major limitation on preliminary institution of dry season plantings.

“It’s good to check these strategies. Within the countryside, farmers don’t take a look at very many issues and simply do the issues they know or what folks have carried out earlier than,” mentioned Marcellin Velo, chief working officer of Inexperienced Once more Madagascar.

The staff additionally centered on soil amendments and watering methods.

Half of the shaded seedlings have been soaked in buckets of creek water previous to planting. The opposite half have been planted with solely the moisture from their final watering on the nursery.

For soil amendments, half of the shaded seedlings have been planted in a gap 33 % crammed with nutrient-rich compost. To assist with moisture retention, the opposite 4 have been crammed with one in every of three domestically obtainable absorbent supplies: moss, coconut husk or chopped petioles of traveler’s palm.

Seedling survival and top have been measured after one to eight weeks, one 12 months, and 6 years after planting.

Greater than 98 % of all seedlings survived preliminary transplant, falling to 83 % after one 12 months and 41 % after six years.

The staff didn’t discover proof that soil amendments or watering decreased tree mortality within the first few months, however absorbent supplies have been related to a slight lower within the survival charge after one 12 months.

Researchers noticed species offered the best variation in seedling survival. After one 12 months, Uapaca sp. had a survival charge of one hundred pc in comparison with Delonix regia with a survival charge of 44 %.

Survival charges have been extra erratic after a number of years as some profitable short-lived varieties died. One instance is Trema orientialis, which had a zero % survival charge after six years following a 95 % charge after one 12 months.

The staff recommends utilizing short-lived, excessive progress species throughout the dry season. These producing favorable outcomes on this examine embrace Uapaca sp., Trema orientalis, Psiadia sp., Macaranga sp., and Pittosporum ochrosiifolium.

“The findings from this experiment exemplify how forest restoration, utilizing approaches from native farmers, is a sensible and helpful option to orient restoration plantings in Madagascar,” Logan mentioned. “It’s very doable that different restoration functions might be discovered utilizing their data.”

–Max Esterhuizen, Virginia Tech

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