As we work to protect forests for cotton-tops, we need to collect botanical material so that we can effectively restore lands to productive forests for cotton-tops. We have spent more than 20 years studying the diet of cotton-top tamarins in 3 different forest reserves and we have documented that cotton-tops consumed fruits, exudates, and nectar from 80 different species of trees, shrubs and lianas. Based on the information that we have collected and following successful forest restoration techniques, we collect seeds from a variety of plant sources to reintroduce to our restoration sites. The majority of seeds that we collect are from trees that are found in neighboring forests. We routinely collect seeds from a variety of plants found within the forest and keep detailed records on the donor plants so that we can maximize genetic diversity in our efforts. The type of restoration effort that is needed in an area influences the species that we will collect and germinate in our nursery. We have recently collected seeds from “Ceiba Blanca” (Hura crepitant), “Patica de Paloma”( Stylogyne turbacensis) and “Muñeco” (Cordia collococca) . These trees produce important food for cotton-tops!
"Crispeta" (Allophylus racemosus)
“Patica de Paloma”( Stylogyne turbacensis)
SEED PROPAGATION IN OUR PLANT NURSERY
Plant material is brought back to our nursery for processing. Each species requires different handling in order to be successfully germinated. Some species like "Caracoli" can be planted directly into the soil and will germinate successfully, other species like "Orejero" need additional help. That additional help usually comes from cotton-tops and other animals! Cotton-tops swallow the seeds from the majority of the fruits they consume and disperse those seeds as they wander through the forest. What is really interesting is that some seeds need to pass through the digestive system of a cotton-top, because it makes them more permeable to water and air, increasing germination rates. So, these seeds require special handling by our team. The impermeable outer layer of the seeds is gently scraped away allowing the seed to have a better chance of germinating.
Once the seeds are prepared, they are placed in germination beds and protected from the hot sun and watered daily. Each species has different requirements; thus, we manage the growth and development of species with differing germination rates and survival under varying climatic conditions.
We collect LOTS of data for each species so that we can maximize the number of plants that we can produce for our restoration efforts. As they plants begin to mature, we transfer them into bags so that they can continue to grow large enough for us to plant in our designated restoration areas.
Let The Planting Begin!
Timing is everything when planting young sapling trees. Within this region of Colombia, there are 3 distinct seasons; dry season (Dec-March), early rainy season (April-July) and late rainy season (August-November). On average, the dry tropical rainforests in this region receive about 1562 mm (61 inches) of rainfall each year. However, with climate change we are experiencing greater variation in annual rainfall. Since we began monitoring rainfall in 1999, 10 of the 13 years of either extreme rainfall (more than 1824 mm or 71 inches) or drought years (less than 1300 mm or 51 inches) have occurred between 2009-2020! To take advantage of peaks in annual rainfall, we typically plant at the beginning of the early rainy season (March) and again in late rainy season (August) so that we can make sure that the saplings have enough water to survive before the dry season sets in. This can be tricky, as survival of the sapling depends a lot on the amount of annual rainfall, too much rain and the plants may develop disease and die; too little rain and they won’t be strong enough to survive the dry season. Thankfully, 2021 has been a year with moderate rainfall to date and we are hoping our 25,000 saplings that we plant will be off to a great start!