The International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN) collaborates with a variety of organizations for its trainings and recently had the opportunity to invite an up-and-coming agroforestry organization, UNAFOR (the National AgroForestry Union of Costa Rica), to participate in a workshop at the AF Training Centre in Londres, Costa Rica. The participants were a mix of forest technicians and local community leaders with a wealth of farming experience.
Participants from UNAFOR at the CCBA workshop
After the initial introductions, IAFN trainer Oscar Fonseca introduced the workshop and the analog forestry methodology, starting with its beginnings under the Sri Lankan ecologist Dr. Ranil Senanayake. Dr. Senanayake’s vision was to create anthropogenic forests using economically productive species combined with designs that mimic the structure and function of mature forests. We started  in earnest discussing the twelve principles of analog forestry, which provide the necessary tools for ensuring ecosystem stability and a productive mature forest. Following this, we reviewed the physiognomic formula, a tool used in analog forestry to describe the “architecture” of a forest. It can also be used to compare two separate parcels of land in order to analyze differences in forest structure, usually between a mature and a degraded plot – a process known as “gap analysis”.
Presenting a new analog forestry design
Presenting a new analog forestry design
Of course, one can only stay in the classroom so long when learning about analog forestry. We soon moved to a nearby mature forest parcel to test out the physiognomic formula in a real-life setting. The group split into several teams and each described the different layers of growth and types of species observed utilizing the physionomic formula. Through this exercise we learned that sometimes the most educational experience is seeing how the interpretations of others can differ so drastically from our own. In designing an analog forestry system, it is important to know the layout of the land and the current ecological state of the area where you wish to work. The following two exercises  allowed us to get a better sense of these criteria. First, we looked at the principles of mapping and utilizing these we plotted the degraded target sites. Once the maps were drawn, it was time to get our hands dirty once again in order to carry out an ecological evaluation. This involved digging holes to measure soil conditions based on indicators such as structure, compaction, and the abundance of earthworms and insects. In addition, in consultation with the landowner (in this case Milo), participants evaluated the productivity and biodiversity of the parcel. The final result of this activity was the “spiderweb” graph, representing the functionality and health of the ecosystem.
Explaining the
Explaining the “spiderweb” graph in the ecological evaluation
With all this information collected, it was finally time to begin the design process in earnest. In small groups the participants defined their priorities and intentions for the degraded land and planned their analog forestry parcel. Before adjourning, we had an enlightening discussion on payment for environmental services systems such as REDD+. While there was much discussion and many alternative viewpoints raised, it was generally agreed that analog forestry had much to offer as a system for carbon sequestration that also safeguards local livelihoods, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Finally, of course, no IAFN workshop would be complete without the awarding of certificates to participants who successfully completed the training and the celebration of their efforts.

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