The Regeneration of a Tropical Rainforest
The experiment is taking place in a rubber plantation which was originally, (about 75 years ago) a part of the forest reservation. During a period of over 15 years of neglect, the seed-fall from the forest reservation has once again taken root and grown in to medium sized trees at the site. The hilly terrain and the waterways that run through the land have helped the activity of regeneration. Seven pools have been introduced in to the landscape, each blending in to the hilly terrain, and retaining the rain water as it rushes downhill while sustaining the rain forest conditions during the dry weather.
The process of regeneration
The striking characteristic of a tropical rain forest is usually the loftiness of the dominant species and the emergent layer. As a regenerating forest, this is missing. We have introduced those species which we hope will rise above the present uniform layer of rubber. Therefore ecological restoration is done in a scientific manner, towards the establishment of a tropical rainforest.
All species of vegetation introduced to the site are indigenous species found in the Wet Zone of Sri Lanka. Special emphasis was given to the plant species found in the adjoining Bambaragala forest reserve. By the end of 2007, the nursery was emptied of the 7000 plants collected in the previous years through inter planting in the field. The growth of woody plant saplings already found at the site is facilitated by regular clearing of surrounding weeds. Other plants from the nursery are re-introduced in a scientific manner, considering the geographical and edaphic conditions of the landscape. Our goal is to have a 40,000 indigenous species in our forest within 10 years including trees, plants, shrubs, lianas etc. With the introduction of over 7000 indigenous species at the moment, we are well on the way towards achieving our goal, mainly because the seed fall from the Bambaragala reserve has been playing an extremely supportive role.
After 10 years of regeneration, the flora at the site has been inventorised. It has been recorded that there are 53,254 individuals of woody perennial trees, shrubs and lianas (woody climbers) at Mahausakande. Floristic richness includes 62 plant families, 115 plant genera and 207 species of plants. The Forest Inventory is available here.
With the support of the HSBC we bring in students from the schools of the Sabaragamuwa Province to experience the regenerating forest and also understand the meaning of holistic health. Ten students, preferably 1st year advanced level science students and two teachers form a single group and participate in a scheduled programme of learning. This programme includes indoor presentations and discussions, field investigations including laboratory observations. During the school programme special emphasis is given to topics such as:
The bio-diversity of Sri Lanka in relation to rain forests
Global warming and climate change
Hopefully these interactive interventions will minimize the trend for deforestation and improve awareness and education levels of school children in the province.
We have enlisted a group of 50 women from the village and introduced them to the manufacture of several items from re-cycled paper and other natural products easily available locally. They are now able to make shopping bags from old newspapers and a variety of greeting cards from recycled paper, to suit any occasion. In this way the women will have at least a small income of their own and also introduce the concept of holistic health to their families.
A wide variety of plants have been introduced in an area of approximately 2 hectares of land around the administrative complex and the Manager’s living quarters. Fruit trees that are indigenous to the wet-zone of Sri Lanka; varieties of spices including a small cinnamon patch and a Reed Patch which will supply the reeds for the hand-craft work of the Women’s Society. We are also developing a collection of rare plants so that students get a chance of learning how to recognize them. These are plants that most people have only heard of but never seen.
In addition the project is making use of the many Kitul Palms (Caryota urens) on the site to make treacle from the sap of the palm thus encouraging the locals to also engage in this income generating activity as there is a high demand for the product.
Awareness programmes for visitors
A knowledge on the factors identified for the mitigation of global warming and climatic change is discussed in detail along with the bio-diversity of Sri Lanka (including diversity of rain forests). The main purpose of this activity is to promote conservation practices not only in school children but also in the visitors who come to Mahausakande.
Every operation has an ecological footprint with an introduction to the concept of holistic health.