Project Details: ELTI - Panama

Panama’s Azuero Peninsula: This site in Panama draws upon 15 years of F&ES research with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in the Azuero Peninsula, a largely deforested dry tropical ecosystem that is a mosaic landscape dominated by cattle ranching and other agricultural practices. Tropical dry forests are the most endangered ecosystem in the Neotropics, with only 1.7% of the original cover remaining in Central America (Calvo-Alvarado et al., 2009). The conventional cattle ranching practices that dominate this region traditionally involved removing and burning forests, applying herbicides and planting of exotic pasture grasses, which are then often overgrazed. These practices have severely degraded the provision and regulation of the region’s ecosystem services, which as a result has also decreased on-farm productivity.

ELTI is working to ameliorate these impacts with local landholders by integrating more forest cover in these productive landscapes via riparian forest restoration, agroforestry and silvopastoral systems. Since 2009, ELTI has collaborated with the Center for Research in Sustainable Production Systems (CIPAV) in Colombia to build the capacity of landholders in the region to practice sustainable farming and ranching practices, many of whom are now implementing these practices in their farms. Regional landowners that participated in ELTI’s Training and Leadership Programs formed one group in particular with the support of ELTI’s Leadership Program, the Association of Livestock and Agro-Silvopastoral Producers of Pedasi (APASPE). APASPE members (currently comprised of 38 landholders) have become leaders in implementing sustainable cattle ranching practices. They are implementing their second grant from the Global Environmental Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) that focuses on recuperating riparian forests, native species reforestation and silvopastoral systems. APASPE now co-facilitates ELTI’s Ecological Restoration in Cattle Ranching Landscapes field courses in the region. In addition, APASPE members have received over 700 visitors to their farms, which have inspired the creation of other sustainable ranching associations and projects in the region.

ELTI has a very strong relationship with APASPE members and, therefore, can facilitate student research projects with APASPE for those who are interested in themes that focus on restoration in productive landscapes. ELTI will integrate the results of the proposed student research projects into their field-based training program. Please contact Jake Slusser for more information. 

Project 1

Summary: Quantify the mortality and growth rates of mixed native tree species that APASPE members planted in riparian restoration zones on local farms during the first phase of the GEF’s Small Grants Programme with APASPE entitled, “Riparian Restoration and Sustainable Ranching Project”. APASPE members established 17 different mixed species plantations of varying amounts of stems (approximately 5,000 total) and species (22 different species) on their farms. This project would involve; (1) the measurement of the trees planted by the APASPE members in order to gauge performance of mixed native species plantations that were integrated into active ranching landscapes; (2) an analysis of the results to determine the impact of ELTI’s initiatives with APASPE on the landscape.

Methods: 1. Measure: root collar diameter, dbh, height, crown width; 2. Quantify: average height, diameter, crown width on a species basis; 3.Compare data to the survival and growth rates of PRORENA’s on-farm monocultures and controlled species trials; 4. Evaluate why farmers selected the species they planted and in what format they were planted in (personal observations reveal that many farmers planted trees in either agroforestry or agro-successional models).

Location: Los Asientos, Panama

Special Skill Sets: Background in silviculture, forestry, social forestry, social ecology; field experience in rural settings required; Spanish language skills preferred

Project 2

Summary: Quantify the production levels of silvopastoral systems (SPS), both intensive and non-intensive systems, which were established during Phases 1 and 2 of the APASPE Small Grants Project implemented in 2011 and 2014, respectively. This scientific evidence is necessary to integrate into ELTI’s ecological restoration courses in productive landscapes in order to demonstrate the benefits of integrating ecological processes into cattle pastures, particularly related to increasing production and the integrity of ecosystem services.

Methods: 1.Take forage biomass measurements in different systems as well as conventional systems at different grazing recuperation times; 2. Monitor milk production in SPS and conventional systems; 3. Study other ecosystem service indicators: wood biomass in pastures (measure trees), biodiversity and soil composition (organic material, NPK, pH, etc. APASPE has baseline soil samples of farms where SPS was conducted).

Location: Los Asientos, Panama

Special Skill Sets: Background in agroforestry and forestry; field experience in rural settings required; Spanish language skills preferred

Project 3

Summary: Quantify and compare the provision and regulation of ecosystem services between SPS and conventional cattle pastures.

Methods: Quantify the following indicators: 1) biodiversity of flora and fauna; 2) water quality: 3) biomass and carbon; 4) soil fertility, pH, compaction; 5) timber and NTFPs

Location: Los Asientos, Panama

Special Skill Sets: Background in agroforestry and forestry; field experience in rural settings required; Spanish language skills preferred

Project 4

Summary: A socio-economic analysis of Panama’s land degradation and conservation drivers in order to help participants of ELTI courses understand the historical context of forest degradation in the regions where we work, as well as potential strategies for forest conservation and restoration.

Methods: 1.Review and synthesize land use history, laws (including land tenure), international investments, etc. in Panama related to agricultural expansion and forest degradation; 2.Review and synthesize national legislation and regional laws regarding land use on private properties, riparian areas, protected areas (both national parks and forest reserves); 3. Review current state of forestry sector; laws, incentives, local and export markets, etc.

Location: Panama City and Azuero Pensinsula

Special Skill Sets: Background in history, political ecology, political sciences, environmental history; Spanish language skills preferred

Project 5

Summary: Develop a feasibility study on the financial viability of hardwood plantations utilizing timber-based agri-silviculture or agro-successional systems. This analysis will look at international/nation native species timber markets and reforestation system costs to help develop realistic timber production models for small holder farmers/cattle ranchers interested in diversifying on-farm production via forestry based systems.

Methods: 1. Review existing national and local forestry laws, regulations, permit process, incentives, etc. 2. Conduct an analysis of international and local timber markets, buyers, costs, current and future trends, etc. 3. Review existing production forestry models, costs, growth rates, net present values (NPV); 4. Review native species hardwood plantation, silvopastoral and timber-based agro-successional models for adoption potential for small holder producers.

Location: Azuero Peninsula

Special Skill Sets: Background in forestry, resource economics, field experience in rural settings, Spanish language preferred

Project 6

Summary: Conduct a study that looks at native species regeneration in the understory of poorly performing teak plantations, which are very common in the Azuero due to biophysical constraints and poor management.

Methods:

Location: Azuero Peninsula

Special Skill Sets: Background in forestry, Spanish language preferred