The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in the Cayo District of south-central Belize is unique for its mountain terrain, ancient forests, dense Caribbean pines, giant ferns, granite outcroppings, tumbling waterfalls, huge limestone caves, and open savanna grasslands–all bordered by lush tropical rainforest. An attack by the southern pine bark beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) has placed the reserve’s endemic Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis) at risk, as more than 80% of the trees have been damaged, making viable seeds scarcely available. In response to the threat facing this forest, the Government of Belize, in partnership with professionals, organizations and governments from around the world, has developed an ambitious long-term management plan for the restoration of this important ecosystem. Conceived as both a restoration and carbon sequestration effort, the project will be funded through the sale of carbon credits to commercial investors. Due to the paucity of available seeds, project activities to this point have centered on rearing and conditioning Caribbean pine seedlings in the project’s nursery, and then planting them at degraded sites via a crew of local villagers. In 2002 alone, 3.5 million seedlings were planted over 10,000 acres with favorable results to date. The ultimate goal is the restoration of at least 90,000 acres of degraded forest.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Belize, 16.9569375, -88.9796776
Country or Territory:
Tropical Forest - Coniferous
Area being restored:
Government of Belize
Primary Causes of DegradationUrbanization, Transportation & Industry
Natural regeneration of the endemic Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis has been prevented by a serious attack of the southern pine bark beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis). Over 80% of the pine trees are dead or dying, and a significant amount of habitat is at risk of being lost, displacing much of the endemic wildlife. Collateral threats include soil erosion, desertification, siltation in the watershed, and effluence into the barrier reefs.
Reference Ecosystem Description
Various unusual bird species can be found in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, including the rare orange breasted falcon, stygian owl, white king vulture, oscillated turkey, acorn woodpecker, blue crown mot mot, keel billed toucan, and red-lored parrot. The reserve is also home to pumas, jaguars, the endangered ocelot, coatimundi, and the Baird’s tapir, Belize’s national animal. The reserve falls within the range of the endemic frog Rana juliani–restricted to the Maya Mountains–and a second endemic frog species, Eleutherodactylus sandersoni, is reported along with an endemic fish species, Poecilia teresae–known from the upper reaches of Belize River, the Macal and Raspaculo.
The management plan aims in particular to suppress additional pine beetle attacks, control forest fires, protect wildlife habitat, and enhance soil and water quality. Over a 55-year period the project aims to produce a total carbon benefit of 48 million tones of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The project does not have a monitoring plan.
Description of Project Activities:
Seeds collected in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve are being tested for vigour and used to grow seedlings in a nursery. The nursery environment protects the seedlings from southern pine bark beetles. Over one hundred people are employed to plant seedlings from the nursery. Thinning activities will continue up to thirty years after the planting has been completed. It is hoped that this silvicultural treatment will prevent the return of stressful conditions that enabled the establishment of high densities of southern pine bark beetles.
Ecological Outcomes Achieved
Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
Planting began in 2002, and Silviculture Belize planted 3.5 million seedlings over 10,000 acres (40kmÂ²) by the end of the year. After 3 months, many seedlings were 2 to 3 times their starting height. Mortality has been less than 1% over most of the area, and this success is attributed to the conditioning of the seedlings in the nursery and the careful planting.
Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved
Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
The project generates employment for 800 people, and according to Forest Securities, is the single biggest employer in the region. Local Mayan people are employed by the project and are transported to and from their homes each day in order to maintain family life. Social security payments are made for each employee.
Key Lessons Learned
The sale of “carbon credits” may be a valuable financial tool in the conservation of native habitats.
Maintaining or developing an ecosystem resilient enough to withstand changes in the populations of pathogens, such as the southern pine bark beetle, is vital to the long-term stability of the ecosystem.
Sources and Amounts of Funding
Funding for the re-establishment of Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve will come from the sale of “˜Carbon Credits’. Forest Securities analysis suggests that the value of the carbon credits is equal to or greater than the cost of reforestation. In fact, the initial commercial investment potential of 18 million tones represents a value of more than $18 million. Over a 55-year period, the project aims to produce a total carbon benefit of 48 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Cody Walden, President and CEO
Forest Securities, Inc.
Ecotourism Information about the Reserve