Planning to Reforest Panamá

With the Alliance For a Million Hectares

Panamá is a small country, only about 7.5 million hectares (18.5 million acres) – yet already about 2 million hectares of forest (5 million acres; 37% of the country) have been degraded. Even many protected areas of the country have been degraded by illegal activities such as human settlements, logging, agriculture, fires and the invasion of exotic species. In fact, Panamá has lost nearly half of its forest since 1900, threatening not only the wildlife in the country but also the general population. Loss of forests can result in a reduction in soil fertility for agriculture, affect the quality and quantity of water, and increase average temperatures.

The Alliance for a Million Hectares is a pact between several public and private organizations that aims to reforest a million hectares (2.5 million acres) over the next 20 years. ADOPTA is a proud member of this alliance, but since deforestation has many causes, the alliance is focusing on multiple approaches. Currently protected areas will benefit from management both within and outside of the parks, by removing exotic plants and creating corridors for wildlife to move in and out of the parks. Because of their disproportionate influence on water systems, special attention is being given to gallery forests (forests that form along rivers or wetlands and may project into otherwise sparsely forested areas, such as grasslands) thanks to a law passed in 1994 prohibiting the exploitation of forests near waterways.The establishment of commercial plantations for timber, although not as environmentally beneficial as a natural forest, helps to reduce commercial pressure on more natural ecosystems and can provide strong economic benefits for surrounding communities. Meanwhile, one of the largest parts of Panamá’s economy – raising livestock – also has one of the strongest impacts on the environment, with about 25% of the country currently used for raising livestock. This large amount of land use also implies a large potential for improvement, and the goal of the Alliance for a Million hectares is to restore degraded lands by applying a model that combines forest species with livestock production.

When reforesting degraded land, we use native seedlings sourced from existing forests nearby. Many seeds will fall directly below their parent tree, where they germinate and begin to grow. Little sunlight is available so far under the canopy, however, and strong shade combined with competition for water and nutrients causes the majority of these seedlings die. By removing these doomed plants and relocating them to degraded areas, we are able to not only save these seedlings but also begin a new forest to support more diversity in the future.

Quick Facts

Type of Project: A private-public partnership between multiple organizations
Project Managers: ANARAP, ANCON, CCIAP, MiAMBIENTE, MIDA, and the Government of Panamá

Locations: Throughout Panamá

Importance: Panamá has lost nearly half of its forests since 1900, but the alliance plans to reverse the reforestation that has happened this millenium

Visit the main project website for more information