Forest Conservation / Reforestation

ElRosario0141_500Reforestation and forest restoration in the monarch’s Mexican overwintering sites and surrounding areas are important for the well being of the local residents and for the monarch butterfly. We support comprehensive, science-based reforestation and conservation projects that engage local communities.

The partnerships MBF has established with different organizations have helped us support reforestation projects within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR).  Our collaboration with Alternare and CIGA (UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography), which started in 2011 has led to successful reforestation of many areas and strengthened our relationships with the local communities who participate in our projects.


Reforestation 2017

Reforestation sites – 2017

Our Summer 2017 was completed successfully! Thanks to the excellent work relationship that Alternare has established with the local communities, 24 trees nurseries have been established in schools and communities to provide healthy seedlings for the reforestation. This year, 720 people from six communities participated in the reforestation planting 23,056 trees on 19 sites and covering an area of 25.46 hectares. Incentives for acquiring the trees were given in-kind and included cleaning supplies, sports equipment, construction materials, improvements, and implementation of the school/community nurseries and in some cases, labor was paid for work that was carried out in their facilities.  Below some of the participants carrying out reforestation activities.


Overwintering Season 2016-2017 in Sierra Chincua

According to the CONANP-WWF (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas-World Wildlife Fund) report, the 2016-2017 overwintering colony in Sierra Chincua was divided in two fragments: a small 0.17 ha area located in federal property and another 0.42 ha in El Calabozo ejido. Both fragments were located just 1.6 km (5,250 ft.) from each other.

The colony in the federal property was the only one open to the public in Chincua. On February 18, on the way from C. Prieto, MBF Board member, Isabel Ramírez and her students visited this site and they observed that the forest was considerably thinned out. The exposed roots of the trees that fell due to the March 2016 storm were everywhere, as well as the remains of the fallen trees that were extracted. However, since the winter was particularly mild, there were flowers everywhere, which seems to have grabbed the attention of tourists as much as the butterflies.

Isabel and her students were able to get close to a fragment of a monarch colony at Llano del Coala. There, they observed a remarkable recovery in the colony size compared to previous years. The only sound was the wind blowing and the fluttering of butterfly wings as they flew around. The storm did not cause a lot of damage on the north face of this mountain. The trees where the colony was established were very young and the understory was sparse. A young forest between colonies was dominant, with very few old-growth trees and a lot of trees from recent natural regeneration. Experiencing this reminded everyone that there is still a lot to do so that the monarch butterfly remains a flagship species for conservation.


Images from the Sierra Chincua colony taken in March, 2017

2017 Evaluation in Chincua

On 30 March 2017, MBF Board member Pablo Jaramillo went to the illegally logged area in Arroyo Hondo in Sierra Chincua to evaluate the survival rate of trees that were planted in June 2016. In collaboration with Arnulfo Blanco from the Michoacana University, six undergraduate students and Luis Dávila (from the Reserve), 10 permanent monitoring plots (100 m2 each) were established and each planted seedling was marked to determine whether it was dead or alive. The final data will be available soon, but early field estimates of the survival rate of the reforested trees is about 75-80%. This is excellent considering that many people participated in the planting process (approximately 60 people per day) over three working days last summer. The permanent plots that were set up will be monitored periodically over the next five years to determine if the reforestation of this area was carried out successfully or if trees allowed to grow by natural regeneration will outperform the reforested seedlings.

Seedlings that will be monitored in the next 5 years

Reforestation 2016

Planting in the 10 hectares
Planting in the 10 hectares

Ten hectares in Sierra Chincua were illegally logged in 2015. Concerned with the situation, MBF’s Isabel Ramirez, Pablo Jaramillo and their colleagues prepared a zone map of the deforested area, noting four zones that should be rehabilitated based on the severity of the damage created by illegal logging. Subsequently they were part of the multi-disciplinary group of researchers, government authorities and stakeholders that met with the Reserve’s Senior staff to determine the best remedial response. A team was assembled to plant oyamel and pine seedlings randomly to resemble the forest. For a detailed account of all the planting activities please visit our site. Finally, the 10 hectare area that was illegally logged was reforested and fenced to protect it from cattle grazing. MBF is grateful to Felipe Martinez for his support during the restoration planning activities and their implementation.

Summer 2016 Reforestation

Area fenced to protect it from cattle grazing
Area fenced to protect it from cattle grazing

This past summer, 4 local indigenous communities and Alternare planted a total of 21 hectares in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve’s buffer zone. The trees were mostly comprised of pine (42%) and oak (30%) but oyamels (8%) were planted too, along with ashes (10%) alders (10%). A total of 22,624 trees were planted by women, men, and children from the schools where the tree nurseries are located: Cresencio Morales, Francisco Serrato, Nicolas Romero and Carpinteros. We have our survival rate data base set up now (2010-2014) and we will continue to monitor the reforestations to evaluate our success. Our past results indicate an average of 85% of the reforested areas had good survival rates, so we aim to remain at that level or increase it!

Locations for reforestation (click for larger view).
Locations for reforestation (click for larger view).

Our experience with reforestation is growing and as our site selection gets better so do our chances of success. However, we know that nature is wiser and forests are best when left alone so we fenced 5 hectares and will allow natural regeneration to occur. We will also monitor these plots to determine what areas are best to leave undisturbed and which are good candidates for reforestation.

Reforestation 2015

This year, our partner Alternare enlisted seven local communities to plant 27,875 trees in 20 hectares within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve’s buffer zone. Seven hundred men, women and children, Alternare’s technicians, and personnel from UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography (CIGA) all pitched in, helping to select the locations and planting the trees. Additionally, the team also created twenty one tree nurseries for future reforestation projects. Pretty good!ReforestationManzanillosCommunity


Reforestation 2014

Collaborating closely with our partner Alternare and local communities, Dr. Pablo Jaramillo, led our summer 2014 reforestation.  A total of 34,300 trees were planted in 31 hectares in the Buffer Zone of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Planting trees in these areas reduces human pressure on the inner Core Zone where monarchs overwinter and encourages local people to protect and conserve the environment.

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Reforestation 2013

In Summer, 2013 MBF supported the planting of 37,730 pines , 1,000 oyamels, and 1,280 oaks on 35 hectares in 9 different areas within the MBBR.  Five local communities participated in the tree planting, two had participated in previous years and three joined in this year.

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Nine different areas were reforested as shown in the following map:


Reforestation 2012

In the summer 2012 reforestation season, ten communities participated in our reforestation efforts. With funding provided by MBF children, adults, men and women planted 17,657 trees from community and commercial nurseries in 20 hectares. Most of the communities participated in last year’s reforestation and an additional group of local school teachers joined us planting seedlings in an area where a landslide occurred in 2010.

Finding appropriate sites to reforest proved challenging this year since most of the sites that are ideal to plant trees are owned by individuals (not communities) and are currently being used for agriculture. However we were able to find suitable locations and most importantly build on the relationships we have established with local communities.

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Reforestation 2011

In Summer 2011 our reforestation was carried out in collaboration with ECOLIFE, a California-based non-profit organization, long-time Mexican partner, Alternare, and 9 groups from two indigenous communities from the Monarch Butterfly Reserve (Francisco Serrato and Crescencio Morales), MBF planted 34,585 trees (32,464 pines, 921 oaks and 1,200 oyamels).

The seedlings were planted in the Rio San Juan micro-watershed, on the southern face of the mountain range between Chivatí Huacal and Lomas de Aparicio, in the Municipality of Zitácuaro, Michoacán as the map below shows:


The nine communities that participated in the reforestation project planted trees from their own nurseries and five also planted trees from a commercial nursery owned by Sr. Ignacio Patiño, who delivered the seedlings with extreme care making sure they arrived in perfect state. Sr. Patiño not only provided the seedlings but also shared his expertise in planting, using methods he learned in New Zealand and Chile. His method uses a special shovel that loosens the soil instead of removing it. This allows the roots to grow quickly enabling the newly planted tree to survive the transplant shock better. He graciously lent us eight of his special shovels saving us money on tools.

Planting workshop with Sr. Patiño and his special shovel

Participating communities showed a great commitment to improve their environment and their willingness to continue working towards reforesting eroded sites in the near future. Communities were compensated for their reforestation work, both in kind and in cash. We supported their efforts to organize meetings to decide how to invest their earnings and we are happy to report that many of the goods purchased benefited the entire community. Some examples of in kind payments included hoses to bring water to their school, building materials to improve buildings or their tree nurseries.

Reforestation 2010

In the summer of 2010 MBF supported the planting of 141,800 seedlings. This year we teamed up with Espacio Autónomo, a Mexican non-profit organization specialized in grassroots community organization, to reforest ecologically damaged areas in the Sierra Chincua of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. MBF also donated seedlings to the Indigenous Communities of Crescencio Morales, Francisco Serrato, and Donanciano Ojeda. The reforestation project with the indigenous communities received on the ground support from staff at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, who also coordinated the reforestation of MBF donated seedlings in the Federal Property of the Sierra Chincua. Additional MBF donated seedlings were planted in the Ejido of El Rosario.

Reforestation, How We Started…

In the past, MBF worked in collaboration with the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project México (LCHPP-Mexico), a project conceived by Jose Luis Alvarez of Santa Clara del Cobre, México, and initiated in 1997 in partnership with Robert L. Small of California, the founder of the Michoacán Reforestation Fund (MRF). This project gives seedlings to local people (at no cost to them) to reforest lands, mainly in the buffer zone surrounding the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR), that have been denuded for agriculture and domestic timber consumption. Once the seedlings grow into trees they provide sustainable wood-lots for the local people, which may reduce timber cutting in the MBBR. The project also provides a source of income for the land-owners, improves the watershed, protects fragile mountain soils, and provides wildlife habitat. Periodically, trees are also propagated for and planted within the core zone of the MBBR.

From a kick-off donation from Robert L. Small, 7,000 seedlings were planted in 1997. News of the successful plantings spread quickly, and over the next 12 years over 600 farmers and 20 communities had participated, donating both land and labor to plant and raise trees at over 400 sites. During 1997-2009, 1,000 hectares were reforested with 3 million new trees.

Since Jose Luis Alvarez and MRF initiated the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project Mexico in 1997, other organizations have become involved. We planted 200,000 additional seedlings in 2009, with support from and in collaboration with one of those organizations, LCHPP-Inc., a non-profit formed in 2007 dedicated to forest restoration.