From pasture to a fully-fledged rainforest

In Costa Rica they accept the challenge!

From pasture to a fully-fledged rainforest

From pasture to a fully-fledged rainforest

Is it possible to restore the original rainforest in a deforested area where cows have been grazing for years? In Costa Rica at least they accept the challenge. This article tells in short how a Dutch foundation in Costa Rica is trying to transform degraded land back into a fully fledged rainforest.

Why reforestation

It is obviously more important to preserve existing rainforest by protecting it instead of planting new trees. If no trees are cut down, the need to plant them would also be much smaller. The Adopteer Regenwoud foundation therefore consciously chooses to protect as much rainforest as possible and only plant new trees where necessary.

It has chosen to reforest only areas that are strategically important. The main reason is to enable migration for plants and animals. Animals avoid meadows to migrate, because of the risks it entails due to lack of shelter. The same animals are also the ones who have to spread the seeds of trees and plants, almost all seed distribution in the rainforest is done by animals. In contrast to the Netherlands where a lot of seed dispersal is done by the wind.

The jaguar

So it is important to get back to the original forest where rainforest was cut down in the past. The mission is to fully protect an area of 2000 hectares of continuous rainforest and restore it where necessary so that plants and animals can move and reproduce freely again. A good example is the Jaguar that needs at least 2000 hectares of continuous rainforest to survive. This feline is a key species for the rainforest, a species that ensures that animal life remains in balance. If the jaguar can survive in the area then this is a good indication that the rainforest is healthy and diverse enough.

But how do you get the original forest back to these important strategic places?

Theoretically, you could just wait. If you wait long enough and don’t let any more cattle graze, then bushes and eventually forests will come again. Probably it will indeed become forest, but that could take a few human lives. In practice, few tree seeds end up in the meadows, because of the absence of seed spreaders (animals). And if a single tree seed ends up in the meadow there are few that can cope with the stiff high grass. The grass is so long and thick that sunlight can barely reach the ground and the grass also develops an enormous root mass in which almost no tree seed can germinate.

In order to speed up this process and perhaps create rainforest again within one lifetime, the biologists at Adopteer Regenwoud thought of something else. The final tree species we want to have in our rainforest are those that occur in the rainforests around the deforested plots. However, these are species that you can’t just plant and water in a meadow in the hope that they will grow. The “valuable” tree species (climax species), species that have a high natural value because they are important for a lot of life in the rainforest, are trees that can only grow in shade and a good forest climate. And not on a meadow in bright sunshine.

2 year old tree – already 9 meters tall!

The creation of a forest climate

In order for these ultimate target species to grow again, it is therefore important that a forest climate is created where there is sufficient shade. Previous studies in the high mountains of Costa Rica have shown that when you plant trees you can create a forest climate to stimulate natural rejuvenation.

To create this forest climate, 14 indigenous tree species have been selected (species that occur naturally in Costa Rica). There is chosen for fast growing tree species that preferably bear fruit. In this way you not only create a forest climate and shade as quickly as possible, but you also attract animals from the existing rainforest to these planted fruit-bearing trees. These animals are the key to success. If they feel comfortable to move freely in the reforested area again, they will ensure that the desired tree seeds from the rainforest will end up in the desired plot again. The planted trees provide an ideal climate and enough shade for these seeds to germinate. This allows them to grow into the desired “valuable” trees that will eventually create a fully-fledged rainforest.

Man and animal work together

It is still too early to draw conclusions. But there is good hope that with the help of some human input and the important contribution of rainforest animals, the succession of pasture to an adult rainforest is accelerated. And that eventually the area of 2000 hectares will be a fully interconnected rainforest, where the majestic Jaguar can roam freely and raise her young.

Read more about Costa Rica and her history, then go to:

Costa Rica: From mass deforestation to a paradise for eco tourism.

Joining forces in Punta de Lanza

Together with Barbilla National Park and the Bajo Chirrip√≥ Indigenous Reserve, the Work with Nature reserve forms a “three-country point”. This place is known as Punta de Lanza or Lanspunt. The community consists partly of the indigenous population of Costa Rica and partly of “white people” (modern ticos). Recently, an association has been founded to achieve more together.


High time for biodiversity!

High time for biodiversity

Did you know that 5% of all species of flora and fauna in the world live and grow in Costa Rica? Also, Costa Rica is in the global top 20 countries with the greatest biodiversity! Are you a real nature lover? Then put Costa Rica on your bucket list. But… before you pull your backpack and passport out of the¬† closet, we want to give you a lesson about biodiversity. Maybe you have what it is, but to refresh your memory we’ll explain it to you in this blog. (more…)

The rainy season part 1: Glass frogs

In the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica most rain falls in May to August. The fact that it rains is good for all life of course, but can be quite difficult for our biologists in the Work with Nature reserve; the paths become muddy, the laundry doesn’t dry and the project is sometimes briefly inaccessible because rivers are filling up. (more…)

Costa Rica – from large-scale deforestation to a paradise for eco tourism

Costa Rica is known for its beautiful nature, a country with an exceptionally high diversity of plants and animals (one of the highest percentages of biodiversity in the world). A country for the true ecotourist. Over the past twenty years, ecotourism has become increasingly important to Costa Rica. In 2019, there were nearly 3 million tourists in Costa Rica of which 80% are considered ecotourists. (more…)

The Hummingbird

Most species are between 7.5 and 13 cm in size. You would almost think it is an out-sized bumblebee! Hummingbirds (Trochilidae) are the smallest birds in the world. They are a family of birds of the order swift-like. The family includes more than 300 species. Most species are found in South America. It is so much fun (more…)

Butterflies in Costa Rica

When a butterfly flies by, most people do stop for a moment to follow it with their eyes. They often have beautiful colors and the large soft wings compared to the small body make them look almost cuddly. In Costa Rica there are more than 1200 species of butterflies and of course we are very curious about the species that occur in the reservation of Adopt Rainforest.


Special glass frog in the reserve!

Now that student Sonny, a pure night tour specialist, is about to finish his internship, a lot of great discoveries are made at the last minute. To top it all off, last week we found a special glass frog in the reserve. This Hyalinobatrachium dianae – Diane’s Bare-hearted Glass Frog was only discovered and described […]

The ceiba tree

The Ceiba tree, also called kapok tree, is an impressive sight with its trunk full of thorns and a growth rate of 2 to 4 meters per year. Those thorns allow the tree to protect itself from all kinds of animals. The tree is one of the forest giants of the tropical rainforest and grows […]

International Census of the Great Green Macaw

Critically endangered parrot species Yesterday the research program of Adopt Rainforest participated in the Censo Internacional de la Guacamaya Verde 2022. Or in English the International Sensus of the Great Green Macaw. Throughout its distribution, dozens of organisations participate in the next days to get an understanding of the current state of this parrot species. […]

The three-fingered sloth: the facts you didn’t know about this impressive mammal

What’s with the fur? Why do sloths sleep so much? This month, the three-fingered sloth is the animal of the month at Adopt Rainforest. And what’s more fun than hearing from one of the founders of Adopt Rainforest some fun facts that you won’t find in a standard biology book. Maarten van der Beek is one of the biologists at Adopt Rainforest and lives on the Work With Nature reserve in Costa Rica. (more…)

Adopt Rainforest deploys park rangers to protect rainforest

In recent years, the reserve of the Adopt Rainforest Foundation has been easy for project manager Maarten to oversee. Two or three times a week he and the students make his rounds through the project area for the biodiversity research. For this research they visit several plots of the area, giving them a good insight into what is happening. Should any illegal logging occur, it is immediately noticed. The same goes for illegal hunting. In addition to the local presence, camera traps are hung at various places in the reserve. These are checked weekly. Should hunters or poachers walk through our reserve, this is quickly noticed.


CO2 storage in trees – how does it work?

CO2 storage trees – How does it work?

We all know how important trees and plants are for producing oxygen and absorbing CO2. Especially lately there has been a lot of news about the climate crisis, global warming, sea level rise, CO2 offsetting and the importance of preserving trees, plants and forests. In this blog you can read some background information on how trees store our CO2 emissions.


Long-term research project with Utrecht University

Stichting Adopteer Regenwoud’s research project is entering an exciting new phase thanks to a long-term collaboration with Utrecht University. The foundation was ready for a new step to professionalize the research project and Utrecht University was looking for a stable and reliable partner in Central America to conduct solid research in the rainforest. So for both parties this is a wonderful collaboration! Because of this we will make a big step in professionalizing our current research on biodiversity in our reserve. Together with the visiting students we will focus on scientific research in which the diversity and development of nature in our reserve, with an emphasis on flora, is central.