Stony Brook University graduate student Carla Rodriguez is conducting her own research in reforestation during her internship at Centre ValBio. Rodriguez set out with Nicolas Rasolonjatovo, head of the 6-person Reforestation Team at CVB, on Jan. 6, 2016 to Morafeno Reforestation Site to begin plotting.
Rodriguez’s research as an Environmental Management major focuses on the growth in reforestation sites, which are forests that have been re-planted. She is also gathering data from fragmented forests, which are forests that have a significant amount of cleared land around them. At the end of her research, Rodriguez hopes that her data shows which species of trees survive the best during reforestation. She also plans to utilize her data, which involves some GPS mapping, to create a map of the reforestation sites for CVB.
In Madagascar, the rainforests are always in danger. The majority of forests are destroyed by the people living nearby in order to create land for farming. Due to low quality soil and a lack of crop diversity, most agricultural families have to change locations every few years. This leads to even more destruction of the forest. Reforestation projects like CVB’s attempt to plant trees in areas where most of the forest has been cut down.
Morafeno Reforestation Site was planted in 2006 by school children who were learning about the environment. Although the trees are growing, Rodriguez’s project revealed that there is a high risk that all of the efforts in this site could be reversed due to destructive gold mining. Cavernous holes filled with water and quartz gravel appear all over the area of land where the trees are planted. These mines make it virtually impossible to plant trees. “They say they can find gold under those trees’ roots,” Rasolonjatovo explains, “so that’s why they get in the forest and dig a hole. So many trees fall down and die.”
“If we give up, we can’t save anything,” Rasolonjatovo says. So despite the gold mining complications, the CVB Reforestation Team gets to work as Rodriguez finds the area of the entire site using a GPS. Then the team lays a measuring tape around some trees to create a 10 x 10 meter square called a “plot.” “We are going to take them [the plots] randomly, and we are going to be measuring all the trees within our plots,” explains Rodriguez, “my goal is to do five to ten plots a day.”
With help from team members Lucean and Alfred, Rodriguez collects the name and various measurements of each tree within the taped-out square and records the data in a table. She then proceeds to get the GPS coordinates of the plot for mapping purposes.
Rodriguez plans to gather data from about 60 plots throughout the duration of her three-week internship.