Futuro Forestal is located in the Chiriqui region, Panama, on the Pacific side of the isthmus. Since its foundation in 1994, Futuro Forestal has engaged in reforestation with mostly native species that produce fine tropical hardwoods of high value, carbon credits, and non-timber forest products, providing investment opportunities to its clients. The company has been the first to sell carbon credits from reforestation as a business in Panama. They have established mixed plantations of six tropical hardwood species in parcels of different sizes. The selection of species and their spatial distribution is defined by a detailed site examination. An additional 35 species are planted for biodiversity and research reasons. Terminalia amazonia is the most promising species so far.
In the first 5 years after planting, there is almost constant supervision and manual weeding. After a year the trees are pruned at the beginning and the end of every rainy season. Two applications of organic fertilizer per year are given to the seedlings until they grow with satisfactory vigor. From the fifth year on, when the canopy of the trees starts closing, the intensity of the management is reduced.
Futuro Forestal reconverts abandoned cattle land to natural habitat, creating a diverse and dynamic, but essentially artificial tropical forest. The company also buys land already supporting early secondary forest. In this case the company conserves the existing vegetation and enriches parts of it to increase its commercial value. Other areas are maintained as biological corridors. At present, of the total managed area of 372 ha about 82 ha is protected secondary forest. The forest management has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Mixed plantations have also been used in forest restoration projects. For example, in Sri Lanka, on abandoned swidden adjacent to the Sinharaja Man and the Biosphere reserve, mixed plantations of dipterocarps and other species were established using the canopy of an 18-year-old Pinus caribaea (Caribbean pine) plantation as 'nurse' for the shade-tolerant rain-forest species. In this experimental setting it was found that the best environment for seedling establishment and growth for all species were the centers of the canopy strips (6-12 m). In other experiments using only native rain-forest species, seedlings grew better when planted within openings created by the removal of three rows of pine canopy. Using already established pine species as nurses could thus be a solution to the dispersal, weed competition, and pathogen/insect problems that rain-forest tree species encounter during initial establishment on sites previously cleared of forest (Ashton et al. 1997 a, 1998).
In southwestern Costa Rica, mixed stands involving 41 native species were established in a private forest reserve of 145 ha of abandoned pastureland. In evaluations carried out when plantations were 5 years old, sun-loving species had grown at a rate of 3 m year-1 in height and were larger than 10 cm DBH (Leopold et al. 2001). Likewise, mixed species reforestation schemes have been practiced in Australia involving both native and exotic species (Kanows-ki et al. 2003), in the restoration of bauxite mines in the Amazon (Parrotta
et al. 1997), and near the shores of the Panama Canal (PRORENA 2003; Fig. 6.6).
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