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Entries in Selva Maya (23)


Selva Maya III

Fitting a dendrometer band around a Manilkara tree.


Reading the band with a caliper to see how much the tree has grown.


The forest management systems used by communities in the Selva Maya are very good - but there is always room for improvement.  The growth data used to calculate harvest volumes and rotation lengths, for example, are based on government estimates.  This could cause big problems.  If the growth estimates are too high, you'd cut more wood than you should. If the growth estimates are too low, you'd be leaving valuable timber in the forest.  Better to actually measure how fast the trees are growing.

In 2005, with support from the Overbrook Foundation, we started an extensive study of tree growth in the Selva Maya using stainless-steel dendrometer bands.  The research included 21 timber species (in addition to mahogany) and invoved 7 forestry ejidos.  The communities banded almost 3,000 sample trees.  As far as I can tell, this is the largest community-based study of tree growth ever initiated in the tropics.


Selva Maya II

Load of logs near the town of Tres Garantias.

Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King) boards outside the mill at NohBec.

Local communities have been managing the forests of the Selva Maya since pre-Columbian times.  In recent years, community forestry in the region has focused on timber, in particular the production of export-quality Mahogany timber.   The forestry operations of several ejidos in the Selva Maya have been certified to be sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  These were some of the first sustainably managed tropical forests to be recognized anywhere in the world. [NOTE: For more information about pre-Columbian forestry go here].


Selva Maya

The Selva Maya as seen from the ruins of Becan, Campeche


The Selva Maya extends through Guatemala, Belize, and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.  Comprising more than 5 million hectares, it is the largest contiguous tract of tropical forest in Central America, and second only to Amazonia in the New World. Much of the intact forest in Amazonia is conserved in parks, reserves, and other types of protected areas under government control. In contrast, over half of the forest in the Selva Maya is owned communally by ejidos. The forest are maintained because the local communities have chosen to maintain them.   There are valuable lessons to be learned here.

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