A new research has determined that it may be possible to restore a tropical rainforest ecosystem.
Carried out by researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute in US, the research involved planting a sampling of local trees, native species in worn-out cattle fields in Costa Rica.
The results revealed that the newly planted native species began to move in and flourish; raising the hope that destroyed rainforests can one day be replaced.
This research was part of the Tropical Forestry Initiative, which began in 1992 in Costa Rica by Carl Leopold and his partners, who planted trees on worn-out pasture land.
The group chose local rainforest trees, collecting seeds from native trees in the community. They planted mixtures of local species, trimming away the pasture grasses until the trees could take care of themselves.
This was the opposite of what commercial companies have done for decades, planting entire fields of a single type of tree to harvest for wood or paper pulp.
The trees the group planted were fast-growing, sun-loving species. After just five years, those first trees formed a canopy of leaves, shading out the grasses underneath.
"One of the really amazing things is that our fast-growing tree species are averaging two meters of growth per year," said Leopold.
As to how could soil so long removed from a fertile rainforest support that much growth, Leopold said that may be because of mycorrhizae, microscopic fungi that form a symbiosis with tree roots.
Research at Cornell and BTI shows that without them, many plants can't grow as well. After 50 years, the fungi seem to still be alive in the soil, able to help new trees grow.
These results mean that mixed-species plantings can help to jump-start a rainforest.
According to the research, local farmers who use the same approach will control erosion of their land, while creating a forest that can be harvested sustainably, a few trees at a time.
"By restoring forests we're helping to control erosion, restore quality forests that belong there, and help the quality of life of the local people," said Leopold.