One Tree at a Time!

Andes 2023

Polylepis forests at the Andes treeline provide crucial ecological benefits, serving as vital water sources for downstream regions, supporting diverse species, preventing erosion, and contributing to climate resiliency and mitigation.

Latin America and the Caribbean
Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru
Planting Location
To be determined annually by January 1. For the 2022 planting season
Project Description
This project is part of a multi-year, multi-partner initiative to restore 1 million hectares of Polylepis ecosystems throughout the high Andes. Polylepis forests are extremly important as they are a major source of South America’s water system including the Amazon basin. Accion Andina is a Latin-led initiative to protect and restore one million hectares of high Andean native forest ecosystems, particularly Polylepis, over twenty-five years. The 2022 season represents the 5th year of conservation toward this goal. GFG and ECOAN are the co-founders and administrative leads for Accion Andina. Our restoration approach is to build and support a partnership of local conservation and community on-the-ground leaders focused on restoring native forest ecosystems at regional scales. All of our restoration methodology is based on the best available science on the native forest systems targeted. Polylepis species are keystone species in the high Andes, and our plantings always include one or more Polylepis species in addition to other native species associated with the forests they form. On average, partners are planting a density of 2,000 trees per hectare, but the exact number varies by project due to different ground conditions (e.g. in Chile they only plant 100 saplings per hectare due to water constraints). Importantly, because Accion Andina's goals are long-term and to restore fully functioning forest ecosystems, every conservation field season includes monitoring and care of saplings planted in previous years. Our restoration approach also emphasizes protection of remaining standing native forests as critical sources of seed and cuttings for restoration. Addressing drivers of deforestation is also included in our restoration model, but varies in form and execution by project and stage of project development (e.g. fencing, alternative sources of energy). Seedling replacement is rarely done unless there is a catastrophic loss of seedlings due. We have more than 20 years data and experience with survival rates for reforested Polylepis forests indicating an 80 - 85% survival rate can be achieved. Some of the Accion Andina projects include agroforestry methods in project areas to encourage natural regeneration and sustainable natural resource management. The over-arching goals of the Andes Action Initiative are: 1. Community-led restoration and management of natural ecosystems. 2. Improved living conditions for indigenous and local communities. 3. Climate change mitigation and resiliency benefits , particularly water conservation and creation of headwaters, carbon sequestration, and habitat for species migrating to higher altitudes. 4. Protection and expansion of native habitat for IUCN -listed species of conservation concern. The goal of this project is to secure places to reforest, collect seed from local native forests, repair or build simple, on-site plant nurseries managed by local communities, and acquire the materials needed to grow the seedlings.
Ecological Benefits
Polylepis forests provide critical ecological benefits. Found at treeline altitudes in the Andes, these forests help create and feed the headwaters of major sources of water for everything downstream including the Amazon rainforests and wetlands. They are habitat for more than 20 IUCN-listed Species of Conservation Concern. They prevent severe erosion from melting glaciers above them. They contribute to climate resiliency and mitigation.
Community Benefits
Accion Andina restoration projects provide community benefits in several ways. Our projects restore vital community natural resources and help communities to sustainably manage them going forward. Because our projects are community-based and owned, our projects contribute to local community economies by creating local micro-businesses focused on growing, planting, and managing sustainably native forests. Motivation for community involvement in Accion Andina projects stems from their recognition of the role native forests play in water creation and capture; water is universally recognized by local communities as the ultimate community benefit they receive.
Tree Species
Polylepis (on average 76% of plantings): Polylepis australia Polylepis incana Polylepis lanata Polylepis pauta Polylepis pepei Polylepis racemosa Polylepis reticulata Polylepis subsericans Other Native Andean species (on average 24% of plantings), include but are not limited to: Alnus Acuminata Cedrela odorata Erythrina edullis Escallonia recinosa Oreopanax ecuadorensis Prosopis alba Prosopis burkartii Prosopis chilensis Prosopis strombulifera Prosopis tamarugo
Project Images
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