Five years later Hurricane Mariawhich will take place the day after tomorrow, reforestation efforts continue following the significant loss of green cover left by the cyclone and on this occasion, the non-profit organization for nature will give away 25,000 native, endemic and fruit trees for free as part of its La Siembra initiative.
Deliveries will be made this Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, company car type, simultaneously to six locations: Para la Naturaleza Nursery at the Rio Piedras North Botanical Garden, in San Juan; Hacienda La Esperanza Nature Reserve, in Manati; La Parguera Nature Reserve, in Lajas; the visitor center of the Medio Mundo and Daguao protected natural area, in Ceiba; former Lions Club, in Barranquitas; and Isidoro García Park, in Mayagüez.
Lady Vasquezreforestation coordinator of the Para la Naturaleza nursery in the San Cristóbal Canyon, explained that those wishing to collect trees must book them through the page pln.org/lasiembra. Everyone can reserve up to four trees, and on the page you will find information about delivery points, available species and recommendations on what and where to plant.
“Ideally everyone should book and specify the day and time they will collect the trees, but we will have extra trees for those who don’t book, subject to availability,” he said.
He explained that citizens will be able to choose from 65 types of trees, including native oak, San Jose broom, acerola, guava, mangrove button, sour soup, coffee, gooseberry, maga, mamey and beach grape.
“Para la Naturaleza focuses on native and endemic trees because they are genetically and evolutionarily adapted to withstand strong hurricane winds, sustain forests and provide habitat for species, including migratory and endangered species. We also work with fruit trees because apart from protecting ecosystems, it is important to ensure food security,” he said.
As of last Thursday, 2,190 people had already registered on the page and allocated 8,422 trees.
According to a quick estimate by the US Department of Energy and the University of California, Berkeley, Hurricane Maria caused death or severe damage to between 23 million and 31 million trees in Puerto Rico.
Other studies, such as that of the Federal Forest Service’s International Tropical Forest Institute, peg the loss of 144 million, or 10.4 percent, of the trees that were on the island in 2017. According to that study, mortality in the dry forest—south of the island – is 3.9%, in the humid forests – lowlands and valleys – it is 11.9%, and in the very humid and rain forests – on the tops of the mountains – it is 15.5%.
Neida Pumarejo, interim president of Para la Naturaleza, said that a year after the cyclone, the organization created the Habitat program in response to the damage and focused on reforestation. This is an effort similar to the one undertaken in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo hit.
“This is a rural project in which we are nature’s mediators. After the hurricane, we said, “It’s time to help with the sowing,” and that’s how La Siembra was born. We are somehow contributing to the post-Maria reforestation and this is an initiative we are very excited about because current and future generations of Puerto Ricans will see the result. It is participating in the miracle of the birth of a tree,” said Pumarejo, who is also director of land acquisition and in-house legal counsel.
Vázquez, meanwhile, stressed that Para la Naturaleza produces 150,000 trees a year in its five nurseries. As of 2018, more than 400,000 have been produced and more than 150,000 have been planted, he said. As for the species, he explained that they have increased from 100 to 300 because “this is important for the diversity of the forest and to offer health to the ecosystem so that it can continue to develop”.
Vasquez and Pumarejo emphasized that in addition to planting, Para la Naturaleza promotes accompaniment, that is, promoting the responsibility of citizens to ensure the survival of trees.
To these ends, the exhortation to those who will be collecting trees this Friday and Saturday is to register their plantings on the Habitat PLN app so as to join the non-profit organization’s reforestation goal. In the app, people will also be able to monitor the growth and maintenance of trees and the progress of afforestation through a map.
“Companionship is essential for the later stages of the tree’s life as they become accustomed to the moist and sunny conditions of the nursery. The app suggests specific dates for tree maintenance according to the species,” Vasquez pointed out.
“Accompanying the trees while they can protect themselves is a responsibility we want to share with people. It is a commitment and we have the technical capacity to help people if they have doubts about how to deal with them,” Pumarejo added.
Para la Naturaleza invited citizens to share photos of their crops on social networks by tagging the subject (@paralanaturaleza) and using the hashtag #LaSiembra2022.