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Tropical Dry Forest Restoration in Human Dominated Landscapes


The tropical dry forest, the most endangered ecosystem in the tropics, is extremely threatened by the dominance of extensive conventional cattle ranching. The consequences of conventional ranching systems in Panama are particularly severe in the dry forest ecosystem of the Azuero Peninsula. The destruction of forests has degraded the ecosystem service goods such as; water, soil fertility, and biodiversity, which are necessary to support ranching and agricultural livelihoods. With erratic annual rainfall and a dry season lasting from five to six months, the region’s extreme climate variations compound the stresses of unsustainable land use practices and make efforts to restore the ecosystem particularly challenging. While advances in forest restoration and sustainable ranching have been shown to enhance production and ecosystem services in cattle ranching landscapes, they are virtually absent from the Panamanian landscape, mostly due to the lack of information and incentive available to cattle ranchers. Therefore, ELTI has developed a field-based training course for cattle ranchers interested in learning about and implementing strategies to restore forest cover on their farms as a means to improve the provision and regulation of goods and ecosystem services and increase productivity.

Over a period of six days, this course provided the practical basis to understand the importance of ecosystem services that originate from forests and how to implement forest restoration strategies in human dominated landscapes. This field-based course was facilitated in ELTI’s Focal Training Sites in Azuero, which convey ecological principles through its interpretative trail network and demonstration sites. In addition, active learning is encouraged as participants are invited to observe the range of socio-economic contexts and associated restoration strategies through visits to model farms and discussions with their respective owners.


Module 1: Tropical dry forest ecology and the provision and regulation of ecosystem services

• Introduction to tropical dry forest ecosystems of Central America
• The provision and regulation of ecosystem goods and services
• Introduction to tropical dry forest dynamics

Module 2: Limitations for the restoration and provision of ecosystem services

• Introduction to regional drivers of tropical forest deforestation and degradation
• Ecological and social consequences of degradation and barriers to restoration

Module 3: Strategies for the restoration of ecosystem services in human-modified landscapes

• Importance of defining management goals and accounting for biophysical site conditions
• Tailoring restoration strategies to the socioeconomic and cultural contexts
• Principles and methods of forest restoration and the range of passive to active restoration strategies
• Methods of monitoring forest restoration activities