Agro-forestation & Reforestation

Marquez fincaAgro-forestation and reforestation are two different land management strategies, both of which are beneficial to the environment in which we work. Agro-forestation is the cultivation of a wide diversity of trees that produce a sustainable revenue stream for the landholder. In this case, timber trees and/or fruit trees are often combined with undergrowth of lucrative perennial crops such as coffee or cacao. A cultivated forest landscape provides most of the benefits of a natural forest, and ecologically it is vastly superior to cattle ranching and slash-and-burn agriculture. More importantly, it is economically viable for landholders, and therefore is a realistic alternative that can be broadly applied.

Reforestation is the re-conversion of deforested land to native forest. The difference between reforestation and agro-forestation is that agro-forested land is managed for sustainable harvest, whereas reforested land is left alone and is merely managed for the ecosystem services that it provides. While agro-forestation can be applied on lands owned by rural landowners, reforestation is best applied strategically along riparian corridors or as a means to connect forest fragments. Technically, reforestation can be achieved through the planting of trees or through a practice known as assisted natural regeneration (see below for details), depending on the severity of deforestation.

Native Species and Polyculture: In the case of reforestation, only native species are planted. With agro-forestation, non-native species (such as fruit trees from other parts of the Tropics) can be planted, however TMA heavily favors native species, particularly with respect to timber trees. In all cases, a wide diversity of trees is planted. TMA has not and never will participate in the planting of a monoculture of any kind.

Click on the links below to see the list of species that TMA has experience working with:


Assisted Natural Regeneration

After a forest has been cleared, nature immediately sets out on the long journey to restore the land to its native forest cover. If the cleared land is left alone, birds and other wildlife, as well as wind, will disperse seeds from neighboring forest onto the cleared land. Some of these seeds will take root and grow into trees, and the process of ecological succession will slowly but surely re-convert the land to forest. These young seedlings are usually suppressed by the human managers of this land (through livestock, pesticides, machete or fire) which effectively shuts down the natural regeneration process. And even if there is no such active suppression of forest regrowth, the natural regeneration process will take decades, at a minimum, to restore forest to the land.

Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) is a method for enhancing the establishment of secondary forest from degraded grassland and shrub vegetation by protecting and nurturing wild seedlings inherently present in the area. ANR aims to accelerate, rather than replace, natural successional processes by removing or reducing barriers to natural forest regeneration such as soil degradation, competition with weedy species, and recurring disturbances (e.g., fire, grazing, and wood harvesting). In addition to protection efforts, new trees are planted when needed or wanted (called enrichment planting). ANR is therefore a method to accelerate the natural regrowth of forests.

Benefits of ANR:

  • cost efficient way of regenerating forest
  • provides job opportunities for communities
  • strengthens biodiversity
  • increases carbon sequestration and carbon sinks, which contribute to climate change mitigation.