In Tigoni, just outside of Nairobi in Kenya, birds have found a rare and varied source of native fruits to feast upon.
In Fort Portal, Western Uganda, communities are enjoying a harvest of fresh vegetables, whilst watching trees around them flourish.
These sites are forest restoration demonstration plots, established by botanic gardens. Whilst identifying top performing species, developing propagation protocols and cultivating a supply of indigenous seedlings, these botanic garden demonstration sites provide biodiversity and community benefits, as well as opportunities for training and outreach.
Since restoration work began at Brackenhurst Botanic Garden, Tigoni, Kenya, in the year 2000, more than 1500 native plant species have been incorporated into the 40 hectare restored forest area. This provides a feeding ground for more than 180 bird species and ex situ conservation for threatened trees and lower plant species. Surrounded by tea plantations, monotypic stands of Eucalyptus, housing and degraded land, this unique forest restoration site provides ecosystem services, a learning experience, local benefits including sustained water supply and harvesting opportunities, as well as the ability to generate benefits at a larger scale through provision of training and plant material.
Of the 14 top performing native tree species for tropical forest restoration in Kenya identified by Brackenhurst Botanic Garden, only 7 are currently available to purchase from the government’s tree seed centre. Building resilient forests and scaling up restoration relies on an available supply of appropriate planting material. The nursery at Brackenhurst Botanic Garden propagates a supply of genetically diverse seedlings from a wide variety of native species. Customers leave the nursery with robust seedlings, as well as guidance on how and where to grow them.
In Fort Portal, Western Uganda, a project was initiated three years ago to restore gazetted Local Forest Reserves that were felled over 30 years before. Shortly after planting, the majority of trees were browsed by goats belonging to communities living next to the restoration sites. A shift in approach was called for, and identification of a locally appropriate, community driven solution. The restoration sites are now a patchwork of community managed allotments, with native trees growing healthily amidst a plentiful supply of vegetables. As the trees grow tall, adoption and local recognition of the benefits of native trees has increased, and trees are thriving in home gardens as well as on forest reserves.
Technical advice and planting material is provided by Tooro Botanical Gardens, and a forest restoration plot has been established within the garden site. Tooro Botanical Gardens sells native tree seedlings from their nursery, providing care guidelines, as well as demonstration of a project design that encourages community engagement.
These examples portray one way that the world’s botanic gardens are contributing to building resilient forests, providing practical demonstration sites, planting material and building skills to help countries scale up forest restoration and meet their Bonn Challenge pledges. With ambitious pledges on the table, ecologically and socially sensitive solutions are essential. Forest resilience, forest landscape restoration, and consideration of forest and tree genetic resources have been high on the agenda at the 14th World Forestry Congress here in Durban. Congress participants and the online forestry community are encouraged to consult and partner with botanic gardens to identify locally appropriate approaches to build forest resilience.
Internationally, botanic gardens collaborate effectively under the umbrella of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Various BGCI programmes are working to ensure the skills and collections of botanic gardens are applied to help build resilient forests.
To find out more about BGCI programmes that contribute to building forest resilience:
Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens
International Plant Sentinel Network
Blogpost by Kirsty Shaw – kirsty.shaw(at)bgci.org
Picture courtesy Barney Wilczak