T1 Knowledge Transfer in South Ecuador: Facilitation of biodiversity in montane ecosystems by large-scale conversion of monocultures into mixed forests [funded by -]

PI(s) for this project:

Prof. Dr. Stefan Scheu
Dr. Bernd Stimm
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Mosandl


Facilitation of biodiversity by shelter effects of Pinus patula and Alnus acuminata in montane ecosystems of South Ecuador


In ten years of research in the tropical montane rain forests of South Ecuador around the San Francisco Valley the research groups FOR 401 and 816 could establish a sound scientific baseline for restoration, reforestation and enrichment plantings with native species. For example we could show that height growth of Alnus is almost equal to the exotic species Pinus patula and even better than Eucalyptus. Preliminary field experiments indicated that many other native species of high timber value showed surprisingly good performance in gaps of pine plantations. This shelter effect is well known from other regions of the world, but it is new for Ecuadorian pine plantations. Reforestation of native species and mixed forests with higher ecological and economic stability are not yet considered in practical forestry in Ecuador, besides positive experiences in Central America and other regions of the world. Pine forests receive much higher attention despite their negative ecological consequences, high losses by forest fires, poor quality and usually disappointing internal rates of return. Thus, in this pilot project we aim at fostering the establishment of mixed forests with native species by underplanting of pine plantations and Alnus stands and by application of silvicultiural treatments. By this means monocultures shall be converted into mixed forests with higher ecological and economic stability. Using Alnus and Pine stands as shelter for native tree species could be a new instrument for forestry in Ecuador. Alnus-dominated stands shall be comparatively underplanted in order to analyse possible positive facilitating effects of this nitrogen fixer to nutrient cycling and biodiversity parameters.
One major reason for poor acceptance of international experiences and poor implementation in Ecuadorian forestry are the lack of institutions for technology transfer and missing pilot projects, proving the practical feasibility of scientific results. In close cooperation with several counterparts in Ecuador and Germany, we are proposing a pilot project for environmental sciences to overcome these institutional barriers of knowledge transfer and to test the feasibility of scientific results of the research group under realistic practical conditions and a wide range of environmental conditions in the South Ecuadorian Andes. Besides the technical and scientific challenge, how to establish native species in monocultures of exotics, a major challenge of the project is to enhance institutional cooperation. So far, it is the first time for South Ecuador that governmental institutions, NGOs, private land owners and scientists from Germany and Ecuador join forces for the development of scientific knowledge combined with immediate implementation in the field.

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