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Sunday, 12th April 2020

Project Ala's Planting Strategy

By Emma Irving

As Project Ala nears the end of its first year, it is an exciting time to celebrate the progress of our innovative planting strategy so far. Project Ala is using a Framework Species Method to reforest land between some of the last remaining fragments of the littoral forest in Sainte Luce. In January 2020 we completed an important step, planting eleven different species of native pioneer plants. These species are adapted for colonising degraded landscapes, and were chosen for their ability to grow quickly, their resilience to strong sunlight, and being favoured by native seed dispersers including lemurs and bats.

Planting fast-growing, sun-loving, non-native species three metres apart allowed room for two native seedlings to be planted for each non-native seedling. Using this system, we aim to achieve maximum forest regeneration through natural seed dispersal from neighbouring forests, using a minimal amount of artificial planting and future management effort.

This strategy is proving to be a success. One-month survival surveys found both non-native and native pioneer seedlings in each corridor to have a survival rate of greater than 75%. This is a fantastic result, especially given that our predicted survival rate for seedlings is 50%!

Following survival surveys at one-month, six-month, and annual intervals, any seedlings that have died are replanted to ensure we give the corridors the best chance of establishment during the project timescale.

 Native seedlings awaiting planting

Looking ahead to the next year of Project Ala, we plan to continue to establish a diverse and multi-layered forest structure within the corridors by planting a further 12 native plant species. These are characteristically slower growing and favour forest gaps and the shading of canopies, and so will require the growth of pioneer species to create these conditions.

Once the corridors have been established with the non-native species for three years, landowners will be able to sustainably log the species, providing an alternative income in return for their involvement. This will also benefit the corridors by opening the forest up to enable dormant native seeds to germinate. In the long term, Project Ala hopes to establish mature corridors of littoral forest to connect the remnant forest fragments and maintain the health of the whole ecosystem.

A note on coronavirus

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most project activities planned will be postponed until further notice in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus to the vulnerable communities where we work. In the meantime, the corridors will continue to grow and establish as nature intended and activities will be resumed as soon as possible.