Many in the communities, especially the school students celebrated National Tree Day, which coincided with the first rains, by reforesting the properties of the ASADAS (Spanish acronym for Rural Community Water Management Associations). On some of the properties, the tree planting for ecological restoration may be accompanied by site condition improvement to correct the climatic, soil and ecological imbalances.
This was the case at La Gongolona property which was acquired through an eco-loan in September 2018 by FEDAPRO (a federation of 14 ASADAS). The 20 ha property, located in a mountainous area within the Chayote Protective Zone, is devoid of trees and exposed to extremely strong, tree damaging winds. Rows of the shrub Elaeagnus umbellata known locally as "Uvita" (grape in Spanish) were planted as windbreakers with this year’s rains. While this plant is native to East Asia, it has naturalized in Costa Rica. A species traditionally used by local farmers as windbreaker, it can be easily propagated from stakes and grows together to form a natural barrier against the wind. In addition, it produces prolifically red fruits that cover all its branches from April to June. While feeding, perched on its branches to feed on this important and abundant food source, the birds leave behind seeds of other tree species from nearby forests. In fact it is common to find seedlings along the rows of windbreaks as well as a large amount of litter and important organic matter that serves as a substrate for future trees. Fruits can also be consumed by humans and have a pleasant acid taste.
Ben Camper completed his herpetofauna survey at Nectandra Reserve. His capture release record showed 800 entries, most with accompanying detailed photographic documentation. He will be analyzing the data set after his return to the US.
Dr. Nicole Fenton from the Institute de recherche sur les forêts, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, was on sabbatical at Nectandra to study the colonization of vascular plants by ephiphyllous bryophytes (mosses and liverworts growing on leaves) and their effects on water retention.
David and Marcia Novello became volunteers at Nectandra Reserve. They are part time residents of both Maryland and Costa Rica They will be surveying macrofungi, or mushrooms. It will be the first at the reserve for this group of organisms, which are considered neither plants nor animals.
Nectandra Institute (NI) signed the fourteenth eco-loan with FEDAPRO, a federation of 14 community water management associations in the upper Chayote watershed. The loan was instrumental in the purchase of a 20 ha (50 acres) partially forested cattle ranch. The spring on the property supplies water to many of the communities in the federation. This loan is the second eco-loan for FEDAPRO. In exchange for their pledge to regenerate and monitor forest on the entire property, NI will provide technical assistance to help the communities reforest and manage their watershed. The partnership with FEDAPRO has worked seamlessly to date on both land purchases.
The annual Water Month (September) celebration was delayed to October due to the countrywide month-long strike. While attendance was slightly down from last year, the spirit of the attendees for the outdoor activities was very high. The multi-weekend celebration included intercommunity sport events and other inter school competitions. On one weekend, the organizers set up festivities tent at the Pueblo Nuevo eco-loan property, offering naturalist guided hikes, food and social exchanges. In the evening, the annual beauty pageant participants proudly showed off their evening gown fashioned with recycled and disposable materials. This evening indoor event is the leading fundraising venue for the water associations to buy more land for water security and conservation.
Benjamin Camper and Evan Klumpp started their herpetological internships at the Nectandra Reserve in September. Ben and Evan, junior and senior in biological sciences (Clemson University and University of Souther Alabama respectively), are attending the University Studies Abroad Consortium Program (San Ramon, Costa Rica campus). They plan to survey amphibians and reptiles at the Reserve. In addition to their daytime coursework, they will be doing two-night surveys each week at Nectandra during the Fall term. Their work will be a much-needed continuation of several previous short surveys of a group of threatened fauna globally.
These activities were made possible thanks to the collaboration of members of the ASADA of Llano Bonito and the ASADA Guarumal (both members of FEDAPRO). We also thank our volunteers Betsy Minkler (USA) and Isabel Amát Rodolfo (Spain) for their enthusiastic participation on this day, in spite of the first rain of 2019, which soaked the soil, the stakes and our clothes.