Saturday, November 8, 2014

From Farmland to Forest

Sunday morning I uncharacteristically planned a two and a half hour hike through the Las Cruces trails in southeastern Costa Rica with my OTS friends.  Starting out on the Rio Java trail, we soon diverted onto the Melissa trail, a territory that less than two decades ago was considered farmland. 
The Wilsons, the original owners of Las Cruces Biological Station, had a constant desire to acquire more territory while also conserving biodiversity.  In 1962, the Wilsons constructed a botanical garden to be used as a place to grow plants from all over the world.  In case a plant from Thailand was under the threat of extinction, the supply from Las Cruces would be able to supplement the dwindling biological resource in Thailand.  Palms, pink bananas and mosas are just a few examples of plants brought to this Costa Rican botanical garden, the same garden that just so happens to surround our home four three weeks of the semester (definitely not complaining about that). 
The Wilsons sold their property to OTS in 1973, and in 1998, OTS purchased the Melissa plot, 31 acres of farmland, with the same goal as the Wilsons:  to increase the biological diversity of their land.  However, the Melissa plot was heavily deforested so the Wilsons were faced with the challenge of reforesting this farmland.  In the year 2000, OTS began the process of restoration. 
As we walked through the Melissa trail, we stopped every couple hundred of meters to read informative signs explaining the plot that we were hiking through.  The signs detailed each of the treatments that were applied to that specific plot of land in order to figure out the best way to reforest the territory.  We learned that one plot was reforested through tree planting and another through the process of repeated burning.  Meanwhile, one of the plots was left untouched in order to compare the effects of the first two plots to the effects of no treatment.
Fourteen years after the start of the Melissa restoration project, I could hardly believe that I was now standing in the midst of heavily forested territory, easily comparable to any other land plot we had traveled through.  The methods that OTS used to reforest the Melissa plot were extremely successful, and the results far exceeded my expectations.  I really enjoyed exploring the Melissa trail with my friends and was pleasantly surprised by the achievements of the reforestation project.
 Rebecca Passman
Image 1:  Melissa Restoration Plot, 2000 - The Before Shot (Photo Credit to OTS)
Image 2:  Melissa Restoration Plot, 2014 - The After Shot

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