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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. Sadly, the region has suffered in recent years from 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), the national bird of Panama. To avoid further forest degradation and negative environmental consequences, land-use decision makers need to learn about more sustainable agricultural activities and be trained on how to implement them. Unfortunately, decision makers have very limited opportunities to become familiar with alternative practices.

With the support of the Peregrine Fund, ELTI developed a field course for producers interested in learning about restoration to improve ecosystem services and agricultural productivity on farm. Over a period of five days, this course aims to provide the practical basis to understand the importance of the benefits that originate from forest ecosystems and how to implement forest restoration strategies. In particular, participants learn about agroforestry systems, which increase biodiversity, reduce fragmentation of landscapes and allow farmers to continue the cultivation of traditional crops in a sustainable manner. This field course takes place in ELTI’s training landscape in Azuero, which convey ecological principles through their interpretative trail network and demonstration sites and integrate over twenty years of applied ecological science. In addition, participants observe the range of socio-economic contexts and associated restoration strategies through visits to model farms and discussions with their respective owners. This course is an offering to Emberá and Wounaan community leaders from the Darien Province and adjacent Wargandi and Embera-Wounaan indigenous territories, who are interested in conducting forest restoration in productive landscapes. Participation is by invitation only.


The course content is divided into six thematic modules, which include an introductory lecture with corresponding field visits, exercises and analysis.

Module 1: Forest ecology and ecosystem services

  • Introduction to the 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
  • Socio-economic consequences of forest degradation

Module 3: Strategies for restoring ecosystem processes in agricultural landscapes

  • Introduction of 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