The Misiones forests are part of the Interior Atlantic Forests, an expanse of the highly threatened Atlantic forest of Brazil, where we are also engaged in ecosystem restoration projects as explained below.
We are using the results of our long-term experiences in establishing new projects that investigate the use of native tree species to ameliorate environmental conditions in terms of soil and water quality, in various locations and in collaboration with several partners. For example, in 2007-2009 we established native tree plantations in local municipalities, as part of community forestry projects for obtaining tree products and improving local environmental conditions. In 2008 we started collaboration with local farms to integrate native tree species in organic farming including yerba mate, Ilex paraguariensis, a product that is sold as certified organic tea in the USA (EcoTeas), and other countries.
We are studying soils and productivity in the organic farms, comparing with conventional monocultures of the yerba mate crop. In 2008, we assessed long-terms impacts on soils in our experimental agroforestry settings including yerba mate and native trees, in comparison with adjacent areas of degraded land and mature forest as controls. In addition we are collaborating with local tobacco companies to encourage farmers to plant native trees in the tobacco farms, to improve water yield and quality. Finally with personnel from the Argentine Ministry of the Environment, we are using one of our research areas, which are part of a network of Model Forests worldwide, as a model for a system of Payment for Environmental Services, focusing on water yield and water quality. We have a current MOU with the School of Forest Science of the University of Misiones (UNAM), signed in 1989, that has facilitated our research and collaboration in seeking and obtaining funding for research, meetings, publications and other joint activities. Several students have conducted their research projects there.
Dr. Montagnini also teaches short courses in Agroforestry for the school’s graduate program, advises local students in their respective research projects.