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Fundamentals of Ecological Restoration of Tropical Forests


The Cali River Watershed provides 20% of the water that is consumed in the city of Cali (one of the largest in Colombia). In recent decades, the basin has undergone rapid transformations in the landscape and land uses. In particular, the degradation of its forested areas threatens important ecosystem services provided to local communities and human populations on a regional scale, including the regulation of water quality and quantity and hydropower production.

In order to reduce environmental degradation within the watershed and protect the ecosystem services provided by the forests located in it, local organizations have proposed an incentive scheme that supports conservation actions to conserve and the restoration of ecosystems and water sources in the region. The fulfillment of the objectives of the scheme depends largely on training leaders and managers of environmental institutions and community groups on the knowledge and skills relevant to the local context of the watershed.

This course was designed to introduce participants to the principles of ecology and forest disturbances, and the fundamentals of ecological restoration. It also has the general goal of providing them with the necessary tools to understand the impact of the ecological conditions and disturbance history of the site, in designing restoration strategies appropriate to the particularities of the Watershed.


Module 1. Introduction to the basic concepts of conservation and environmental services for productive landscapes (focused in Colombia)

  • Biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration in agricultural landscapes
  • Introduction to environmental services
  • Environmental services associated to land and rural landscapes
  • Indicators of environmental services of the land in rural landscapes   
  • Field trip #1: Practice about environmental services of the land (Yanaconas)
  • Case study #1: Restoration experiences in severely eroded zones (Bioengineering)

Module 2. Conceptual bases for ecological restoration in agricultural landscapes and restoration experiences in the Cali river watershed

  • Tropical forest degradation and ecological effects of degradation  
  • Forest succession and ecological restoration – Principles and conceptual bases
  • Strategies of forest restoration (defining active vs. passive restoration actions, show the spectrum of restoration possibilities found in literature)
  • Factors to be considered in the restoration of watersheds and environmental adequation of rural properties
  • Restoration models with possibility of economic use to atract rural producers in restoration
  • Area monitoring in restoration in the context of a wholesome watershed management
  • Case study #2: Mata Atlantica Monitoring Pact (Brazil)
  • Field trip #2: Identification and diagnose of degraded areas (with an emphasis on the definition of restoration actions for the main situations in the Cali river watershed)
  • Field trip #3: Monitoring practice of restoration projects

Module 3. Techniques and strategies for seedling propagation for ecological restoration

  • Methods and techniques for the production of plant material: collect, transplant and seed bank
  • Methods and techniques for the production of plant material: seed collectors’ network
  • Plant material production: creating and managing a nursery (private and community) Part 1
  • Plant material production: creating and managing a nursery (private and community) Part 2
  • Case study #3: Selection and propagation of tree species for the ecological restoration of the Cali river watershed
  • Field trip #4: Visit to restored areas or in restoration process and to forest fragments for seed collection
  • Field trip #5:  Nurseries for the propagation of seedlings for the ecological restoration of the Cali river watershed. Identification of selected species for watershed restoration and propagation techniques (agrofoam, pods, others)
  • Field trip #6: Visit to a site with a productive management of hillside lands
  • Case study # 4: El Dovio
  • Case study # 5: Dagma – Cali river watershed
  • Case study # 6: More Forests for Medellin 

Module 4. Economic opportunities of restoration and monitoring (biophysical, social)

  • Emerging themes of ecological restoration (novel ecosystems, assisted migration, exotic species, designed ecosystems, new goals for restoration, reevaluation of reference ecosystem)
  • Forest nurseries as an opportunity for business in rural communities
  • Monitoring of restoration areas in the context of wholesome watershed management
  • Ecological restoration governance