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Ecological Restoration Strategies for Productive Landscapes


The Darien Province and adjacent Wargandi and Embera-Wounaan indigenous territories contain most of Panama’s remnant natural forest ecosystems, rich in diverse flora and fauna. In recent years, the region has suffered increased deforestation and land degradation from unsustainable logging and conventional cattle ranching. These practices have impaired ecosystem services, including the fragmentation of local wildlife habitat for emblematic mega-fauna such as the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), Panama’s national bird. To avoid further land degradation and negative environmental impact, land-use decision makers need to learn how to carry out sustainable agricultural practices.

This field course will train community leaders interested in conducting forest restoration in agricultural landscapes. The course covers the benefits of forest ecosystems and the implementation of restoration strategies. Participants will learn about agroforestry systems, which increase biodiversity, reduce fragmentation of landscapes and allow farmers to continue to cultivate traditional crops sustainably. In addition, participants will observe a range of socioeconomic contexts and restoration strategies through visits to model farms and discussions with their respective owners. This course will be offered to Emberá and Wounaan community leaders from the Darien Province and adjacent Wargandi and Embera-Wounaan indigenous territories. Participation is by invitation only.


The course content contains six thematic modules with corresponding field visits, exercises and analysis.

Module 1: Forest ecology and ecosystem services

  • Introduction to ecosystem services
  • Forest dynamics, succession and natural regeneration of tropical dry forests

Module 2: Deforestation and soil degradation

  • Introduction to forest degradation and loss of ecosystem services
  • Socioeconomic consequences of forest degradation

Module 3: Strategies for restoring ecosystem processes in agricultural landscapes

  • Introduction to a conceptual model for restoration
  • Forest restoration methods (range of restoration options: Passive - Active)

Module 4: Agroforestry systems and the propagation of native tree species

  • Introduction to agroforestry systems and the importance of functional biodiversity
  • Best practices to establish nurseries, propagate native species and reforestation techniques

Module 5: The role of community associations in conducting ecological restoration

  • The need, development and dynamics of community-based associations
  • Strategies to implement, manage and disseminate projects to other stakeholders

Module 6: Farm management planning for sustainable production and ecological restoration

  • Defining restoration and production objectives
  • Selecting and planning adequate restoration strategies based on farm needs