Tree planting and reforestation

Native tree species for erosion control

When challenged by choices of how to manage our property we found that our problems often became our solutions.  Terracing can control erosion.  All over the property we have dug swales (water filtration ditches built along the contour of the land) and planted the lower side of them with native trees, bushes and shrubs.  The purpose of these trenches/swales is to prevent erosion and water run off that is inevitable on steeply sloped properties. 

The reason trees or shrubs are planted on the bottom side of the trenches/swales is that the root systems help to hold the swale in place, while ‘drinking’ the water that collects in the trench.  The leaves and branches that fall into the swale provide valuable organic material and help build up and create soil.  The Incas terraced with rocks because they had an abundance of rocks.  Swales on steep slopes eventually turn into terraces without the use of rocks.  We are actually harvesting run-off in the form of water, soil and organic matter.

The most common native trees that we have planted are: Capuli (Prunus serotina), Quishuar (Buddleia incana), Samil (Rapanea dependens), Yagual (Polylepes Incana), Pumamaqui (Orreopaanax spp), and Racemosa (Polylepis Racemosa).  We have interspersed these native trees with a few pine and cypress, as well as alder (Aliso), black walnut (Nogal) and broom (Retama).  We also have young fruit trees: apple, pear, tamarillo (tree tomato), and black cherry.  We are experimenting with planting sub-tropical trees in microclimates, such as avocado, papaya, lime, tangerine, and passion fruit.

Mature native trees are now providing a seed bank for a native tree nursery at the community recycling center.  And the nursery is reusing plastic water bottles collected at the recycling center as well as the compost that the center produces.

Eucalyptus Trees

The Eucalyptus (BFW) trees that dominate the region were introduced to Ecuador in the late 1800’s from Australia.  We use Eucalyptus for construction and for firewood.  We do not reforest with Eucalyptus.  It can be invasive, taking over large tracts of land.  It grows back like a weed from the same stump and seeds itself very easily.  Eucalyptus leaves are highly acidic; damaging soils around their base for years after the tree is gone.  They also have long shallow roots that suck up all the water surrounding the tree.  For these reasons, Eucalyptus makes good firewood that burns without too much creosote build-up.