Evaluating reforestation sites in the Ecuadorian Andes

(12-01-2023) Students from Ecuador and Ghent join forces to unravel optimum restoration strategies for tropical montane forest ecosystems in the Andes

In August and September, four master students from the Bio-science Engineering Faculty of the University of Ghent conducted fieldwork in the Andes in South and North Ecuador as part of an ongoing research into reforestation success.

During the field survey in the North, tree biomass and soil data was collected in 16 permanent sampling plots of old-growth and naturally regenerating forests in the Pichincha province. UGent students Marie Vanhuylenbrouck and Thomas Meul were supported by researchers Selene Báez, Alex Défaz and Steven Carrion from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador and Escuala Politecnica Nacional.

Chemical and physical soil properties and soil microbial diversity will be evaluated. Together with the data on forest biomass, this will help us understand how long it takes for naturally regenerating forests to reach old-growth levels and whether naturally regenerating forests or planted forests are most successful. This helps identify the optimum forest restoration strategy to be employed in tropical montane forest ecosystems.

UGent students Emma De Clerck and Marike Sobry joined the field survey of PhD student Franklin Marín in the South of Ecuador. Together with a team of students and technical staff of Cuenca University they visited 24 observational plots that were reforested 10 years ago. Emma used a terrestrial laser scanner to scan the plots in order to obtain data on above-ground carbon stocks. Marike collected leaf samples from predominant species to compare the functional traits of trees growing on sites at different altitudes. Their work will contribute to Franklin’s research on reforestation success in the Ecuadorian Andes.

The fieldwork is part of COFOREC I and II (funded by VLIR-UOS), with close collaboration between Ghent University, Cuenca University and EPN Quito.