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Mother nature's remedies.

As the average suburbanite with a backyard garden well knows, nature has a remarkable ability to replenish itself. But now it is official: research carried out by a Costa Rican scientist shows that a completely deforested area will be restored by nature if it is left alone.

According to Luis Fournier, a retired biology professor of the University of Costa Rica, you can cut the trees, burn the vegetation and erode the soil, but the rainforest is resilient. If left alone, it will come back.

In 1957 Fournier fenced off a deforested section of what was then his father's farm to study the growth of secondary, or replacement, forest. The farm is located at Ciudad Colon, west of the capital city of San Jose. Today the plot is a lush patch of forest.

What is remarkable is that for ten years prior to the experiment, the land had been used to graze cattle and the soil had been heavily eroded and compacted. But--and this is the good news for environmentalists--it has regained its fertility.

Co-author of several books on the importance of protecting the environment, Fournier has worked diligently for years to stimulate public awareness of the need to protect the country's natural resources. Following his experiment, he is of the opinion that if an hectare of deforested land in Costa Rica's central valley is protected for 25 years, it will revert to forests containing approximately 90 different species of trees.

Fournier explains that reforestation by planting trees is good in some areas but that natural regeneration is better in others. So why is tree-planting popular in so many places? "Politicians," he says, "like to talk about how many trees they have planted."

Now experimenting with a second plot of land on his farm, Fournier notes that 100 species of trees can be found between the two lots, of which 12 have commercial value. Both plots have also become rich mini-ecosystems, replete with an astounding variety of birds, plant species and fungi.
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Title Annotation:!Ojo!; natural way of reforestation
Author:Goethals, Henry
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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