Tropical Forest Restoration and Environmental Education
A challenging project to restore parts of Xishaungbanna's tropical rainforest, involving schoolchildren and volunteers to enable the local community to play an active role in conserving their rainforest for the future.
- Using botanical expertise and historical records to restore forest remnants
- Conserving Xishaungbanna’s rainforest for posterity
- Raising environmental awareness within the local community
Started: 1st June 2012 Anticipated end date: 31st December 2014
This challenging project builds on more than 50 years of research at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG). Drawing on its wealth of botanical knowledge and collections, historical records and nursery expertise, XTBG is in the process of restoring two degraded remnants of Xishuangbanna’s tropical rainforest.
The Garden will utilise its experience in environmental education and excellent community ties to run activities with local schools and involve volunteers in the restoration, ensuring that the community has a hand in conserving its rainforest for the future. The project also takes advantage of recent interest by the Xishuangbanna Government in improving the management of existing Nature Reserves and protecting those forest fragments outside them.
Restoring the rainforest
The first study site is a 225 hectare area of limestone seasonal forest in Green Limestone Forest Park (GLFP), part of Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve. Over the past few years, parts of GLFP have been severely damaged by rubber and fruit tree plantations.
XTBG has established 40-year cooperation with the Management Bureau of the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve to conduct practices on biodiversity conservation, restoration, and endangered plants reintroduction in GLFP.
In July 2011, project ‘Restoration of Tropical Limestone Rainforest in Xishuangbanna’ was initiated as an example of restoration of tropical limestone rainforest. One hectare of degraded forest was selected as a pilot site and thirty saplings, comprising ten different species, were planted to facilitate succession. All of the species planted were dominant or climax species of limestone forest. Tree seedlings are now conserved ex situ in XTBG for use in future restoration.
The second study site is a small remnant of tropical seasonal forest near Mangyangguan village in Xishuangbanna. The first ecological station for the study of tropical rainforest was established here by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1958, making this the longest-studied rainforest fragment in Xishuangbanna. Once part of a larger forested area, and considered a ‘holy hill’ by the local Dai people, rubber plantations have steadily encroached on the site. Today, less than 10 hectares survive.
Despite the loss of area, the number of different species has remained similar. However, appearances can be deceiving. Many original primary forest species have been replaced by new pioneers and several aliens (species non-native to an area), which must be tackled before the site can be restored. The fragment is now almost surrounded by rubber monocultures, but respect for its ‘holy hill’ status and historical scientific importance has ensured that the core area remains virtually intact.
Preliminary discussions with village leaders suggest that there would be strong local support for moving beyond preservation to restoration. Before restoration work begins, plant species throughout the study site will be comprehensively investigated with the involvement of the local people.
Introducing schoolchildren to forest conservation © Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
Involving the community
XTBG has evaluated the current state of the forest in Xishuangbanna and is now working with the local community to begin restoration and run related educational activities with local schools. Practitioners have begun a series of conservation-themed talks at a local primary school, and have already seen a change in the attitude and behaviour of the pupils.
The majority of educational activities will start this September (2013), when pupils return from summer holiday. The plan is to teach schoolchildren the importance of biodiversity in a tropical forest. XTBG staff will visit schools and talk to the students about conservation, as well as show them how to identify local plants.
The Garden will provide native tree seedlings that students can plant in the forest and around their school grounds. Older students and community volunteers can get involved in clearance of exotic (non-native) weeds at the restoration sites.
The project plays a crucial role in determining the value of small forest fragments for biodiversity conservation in a landscape that has become dominated by people.
The anticipated impact of the project is threefold:
XTBG hopes to provide an example of community-supported protection and restoration of forest fragments in Xishuangbanna as a successful model which could be applied to other fragments. The long-term goal is the restoration and conservation of Xishuangbanna’s forests, together with a community which has gained awareness and appreciation for their forests and the wildlife living within them.
PRACTITIONERS & SPONSORS
Wang Ximin, Head of Public Education, Education & Tourism Dept. of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
Project funded by Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden and Botanic Gardens Conservation International.