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Reforestation of the Mae Sa Valley

The upper Mae Sa Valley is within the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park just outside Chiang Mai and here, a 23 hectare plot of deforested land has been the subject of a reforestation project.

It is heartening to hear of such a scheme, anyone who has travelled around the northern provinces will see that there are vast amounts of land that would benefit from reforestation in order to regenerate the soils and to prevent excess runoff from flooding the valleys below. Many such reforestation schemes in Thailand are, however, poorly conceived and plant monocultures and/or plant trees in areas where they would not naturally occur: these projects do little to enhance the wildlife value of the land or, indeed, actively damage the existing ecosystems. However, no one could accuse the Mae Sa project of doing this under the leadership of Steven Elliot and the Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University (Forru-CMU).

The Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University has studied the ecology of trees in the surrounding forests since 1997 in order to successfully re-establish forest of high biodiversity. Local pioneer tree species that grow quickly and are fire resistant are selected in order to establish a canopy which creates shade and attracts seed dispersing wildlife. Shade tolerant climax species are grown underneath the pioneer species and eventually outgrow them causing the pioneer species to gradually die off and create vital dead wood for wildlife and return nutrients to the soil.

Forest created in this fashion has attracted at least 87 species of forest birds as well as barking deer, civets, pangolin, fruit bats, wild pigs and ferret-badgers all of which help disperse seeds and bring in the seeds of other species.

Although only 21.5 hectares of forest has been recreated by this project, the aim is to cover 800 hectares, and so far 200 families in the area have joined the project.

Truly, some good news about conservation in Thailand!

Comment on this project here: Reforestation of Mae Sa Valley

Nick Upton, 3rd August 2007, compiled using information from the Bangkok Post and Forest Restoration Research Unit.
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