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Ein neuer Regenwald entsteht – a new rainforest is born

The two aims of the station’s reforestation programme in the Regenwald der Österreicher (Costa Rica) are to establish a corridor linking the lowland and upland rainforests; and to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by increasing the number of trees.

Can a rainforest really be recreated in this way? What species should be planted? What role does each tree play, and what functions does a forest fulfil?

The Ein neuer Regenwald entsteht ("a new rainforest is born") project is tracking the development of the new trees, in order to discover how and why different tree species grow in particular ways.
In collaboration with the Sir Karl Popper Schule and the BRG 19 primary school, we are investigating the connections between forest structure and the biological function of the trees, with the aim of forming a set of recommendations about which combination of species will form the most natural and species-rich rainforest.
A school group travelled with a team of researchers to Costa Rica over Easter 2015 (an in january 2016) in order to gather data in situ.
The project will also measure the amount of carbon dioxide that a growing tree can sequester, helping us to learn more about the relationship between forest conservation and global climate change, and in particular the role played by trees.


project webpage



BDEF – biodiversity and ecosystem functions

Tropical forest ecosystems are global hotspots of biodiversity, but they are under increasing threat from changes in land use and the effects of climate change. The main questions of the biodiversity and ecosystem functions (BDEF) project include:

* What factors determine biodiversity and ecosystem functions (nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, etc.) at the landscape scale?

* How important is a high level of biodiversity to the functioning of a tropical forest ecosystem?

* What is the effect of global climate change on tropical biodiversity and ecosystem functioning?

The project has established an extensive network of forest areas across the region where these questions can be monitored, as well as a unique biodiversity experiment at La Gamba. This has the potential to bring about an entirely new understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in tropical forests, and will help to promote Austrian tropical research worldwide. The project is financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.

project webpage



The biological corridor (COBIGA)

The aim of the La Gamba biological corridor (COBIGA) is to connect the lowland rainforests of the Golfo Dulce region with the upland rainforests of the Fila Cal, a mountain range north of the Regenwald der Österreicher.
In a collaboration between the Verein Regenwald der Österreicher, Regenwald Luxemburg and the local community, selected areas are being reforested with native trees in a scientifically informed way.
As a result of economic, social and political developments, recent decades have seen an enormous amount of deforestation throughout the tropics, including in Central America and especially in Costa Rica. The establishment of monocultures of export crops such as bananas, oil palms and pineapples, and the enlargement of pastures for meat production, have led to the destruction of primary habitats and severe fragmentation of the remaining forest. In 1996, the dramatic rate of deforestation in Costa Rica was lessend by a strict forest law, but the regeneration of damaged areas is still a huge challenge for ecologists.
Areas have experienced different levels of degradation, depending on location and land use. Some can be left to regenerate naturally and, without interference, will return to species-rich secondary forest within a few decades.
At more severely affected sites, where the seed bank is no longer productive, natural succession may no longer be effective. At these sites, we are carrying out reforestation and forest restoration work by planting native tree species, with the aim of recreating a species-rich forest. Over 100 specially chosen native tree species from the Golfo Dulce region are being cultivated at the model farm (finca modelo) before planting out. The trees will be tended and cleared of lianas for three years, after which time the seedlings should be big enough to survive without further intervention. The area will then be left alone to return to primeval forest.
We are also working on developing a simple forestry concept in collaboration with local farmers. At each site, we select and cultivate tree species of economic interest, which are then planted out by the farmers at their fincas. The farmers are also taught how to care for the trees. Within ten years the first logs will be ready for use, and all harvested trees are replaced. In this way a forest corridor will be established, the primary forest will be protected, and the farmers will have a sustainable supply of timber. We have also produced a book with the farmers, Creando un bosque – Creation of a forest, which explains in straightforward language the importance of reforestation and corridor-building, and gives practical advice for the cultivation and planting of trees.

publications about the corredor project


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1.6 M



The model farm (finca modelo)
Eingang zur Finca Modelo

The model farm (finca modelo) in the grounds of La Gamba’s former primary school serves as a plant nursery for the reforestation project and as a plot for experimental permaculture. Here, various vegetables can be assessed for use on tropical farms, and the produce is used in the field station’s kitchen.

Seed exhibition 2015

pdf in spanish.

Impressions from the Finca Modelo

Karte der Finca Modelo
Tropenstation La Gamba | Department für Botanik und Biodiversitätsforschung | Rennweg 14 | 1030 Wien | T +43-1-4277-57420