Florencia Montagnini

Senior Research Scientist, and Director, Program in Tropical Forestry and Agroforestry, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry.

Research Overview

My research/consultant work focuses on sustainability of forests and agroforestry systems in Latin America, Africa and Indonesia; sustainable land use systems that integrate ecological principles with economic, social, and political factors; forest landscape restoration; reforestation of degraded lands with native species; ecosystem services (biodiversity, carbon and watershed protection); adaptation and mitigation to climate change; Payments for Environmental Services as tools for restoration, conservation, and rural development. Biodiversity conservation in human dominated landscapes; biodiversity islands (biodiversityislands.wordpress.com).


I am currently conducting projects in regions encompassing major types of tropical and subtropical forest in Latin America. The research is in collaboration with universities and other academic, private and government institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Panama. A few examples follow below.


In Misiones, NE Argentina, in collaboration with the School of Forest Science of the University of Misiones (UNAM), we maintain long term experimental settings of pure and mixed plantations with native timber species on degraded land, and native trees in agroforestry combinations with commercial crops. 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 also collaborate with INTA, the National Institute for Agricultural Technology, and with local farmers to integrate native tree species in organic farming including yerba mate, Ilex paraguariensis, whose leaves are sold as certified organic tea in the USA and other countries.  We are studying soils, productivity and environmental services (carbon, biodiversity) in the organic farms, comparing with conventional monocultures of the yerba mate crop.


Also in collaboration with the School of Forest Science of the University of Misiones we just completed a research project funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Argentine Government, Integration of Autochtonous Ecological Knowledge with Scientific Knowledge as Tools for Sustainable Development of Native Communities”.We have presented our findings at several international meetings (see CV for details), and we are publishing them in a chapter of my most recent book: Montagnini, F. (2017) Integrating landscapes: Agroforestry for biodiversity conservation and food sovereignty. Advances in Agroforestry Series 12, Springer, Cham, 501 pp. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69371-2


We are also engaged in another collaborative project on domestication and conservation of the genetic diversity of native multipurpose species of the Misiones forest. We are currently focusing on the preservation and production of propagules with high genetic diversity of two native species, Peltophorum dubium andEnterolobium contortisiliquum, which are good candidates for forest restoration or enrichment projects. These two species are of interest not only to the forest industry due to the quality of their wood, but also to fauna as they are both melliferous. Previous research has shown they are suitable for restoration of degraded areas, consociated agro-livestock or silvicultural systems. Progeny and clonal trials as well as clonal gardens have been established in enrichment strips and in open plantations.


In Brazil, in collaboration with the University of Southern Bahia, with CEPLAC (Center for Cacao Promotion and Research), and with the Center for Environmental Studies of the Michelin Tire Company, we are examining alternatives for restoration of the highly endangered Atlantic Forest, using different strategies according to the degree of degradation found in the landscape. The Michelin Tire Company has supported our research on their 10,000 hectares land in Itubera, Bahia, where we have examined the restoration old rubber plantations by enriching the groves with native species; and the restoration of native secondary forests and abandoned pastures with mixed plantations of native species.

Also in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, in 2008-2009 we started long-term experiments with the Aracruz (Now “Fibria”) Company, to replace eucalyptus plantations with native species. We are using eucalypts to serve as nurses for encouraging growth of valuable native tree species, planting native tree seedlings in contrasting environments: under the canopy of eucalypts, in association with eucalypts, and in the open.

In Panama, I am part of the Native Timber Species Plantation Experiment (NTSP), which is part of the “Agua Salud” (Water/Health) project that studies the ecosystem services provided by forests and mixed and pure plantations of native tees, within the Panama Canal Watershed.



More recent restoration research involves Phytoremediation: use of trees and other vegetation to uptake waters from leachates downstream from sewage water purification systems; choice of species/designs and management; proposals under development to incorporate phytoremediation for wastewater systems in Massachusetts.


Biodiversity Islands

As part of the activities of the Program in Tropical Forestry and Agroforestry, we are also engaged in promoting strategies for ecological, economic, and social benefit through the framing and planning tool we call Biodiversity Islands. A Biodiversity Island acts as an ecological refuge, where plants and animals can thrive without major degenerative interference from human activity. The economic benefits of adopting and recognizing Biodiversity Islands within the landscape are many fold including ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, and natural capital resources (biodiversityislands.wordpress.com). We are leading a session at a IUFRO Conference (http://iufro2018posadas.com): Adaptive Management for Forested Landscapes in Transformation; our session is entitled: Biodiversity Islands: Pockets of Protected Land in Human Dominated Environments.




My current research activities are expanded with my research-oriented consultant work. Currently I am a Member of the Steering Committee of theCGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry(FTA). The FTA program intends to contribute to solving some of the evolving global, regional and national forestry and agroforestry-related challenges.FTA is led by CIFOR and includes three additional CGIAR Centers (ICRAF, Bioversity International, and CIAT) as well as two non-CGIAR Participant Institutions (CIRAD and CATIE). It is a ten-year multi-partner program which started in 2011 to be implemented within the Consortium’s Strategic Results Framework (SRF) and along the rules and regulations of the recently reformed CGIAR. FTA aims at enhancing the management and use of forests, agroforestry and tree genetic resources across the landscape, from forests to farms and plantations and strives to become the leading global comparative research initiative focused on forestry, agroforestry and tree diversity across the developing world.


Previous to becoming a member of the Steering Committee of FTA I was a Senior Evaluation Expert conducting an Independent Evaluation of the FTA Program for the FAO. This work took me to Indonesia, Kenya, Cameroon, and Ethiopia to examine forestry and agroforestry projects, meet researchers and farmers engaged in the projects to ascertain the success of the project in meeting their stated goals in improving rural livelihoods. A chapter of my most recent book: Montagnini, F. (2017). Integrating landscapes: Agroforestry for biodiversity conservation and food sovereignty. Advances in Agroforestry Series 12, Springer, Cham, 501 pp. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69371-2, is dedicated to this subject: Montagnini, F, Metzel, R. “The contribution of agroforestry to sustainable development goal 2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.


I have also gained new insights on novel environmental enterprises from advising Thrive Natural Care, San Francisco, CA. a company working on the sustainable extraction and use of non-timber forest products, organic/biodynamic farming, ecosystem restoration, and collaboration with local and/or indigenous communities, committed toimproving the landscape(s) from which the company's raw materials are sourced.


Likewise, I am advising Fundación Runa in the Ecuadorian Amazon, in their goal of providing tools and resources to indigenous communities and farmers' associations for sustainabledevelopment in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We wrote a Handbook or Domestication Manual for use of Ilex guayusa, a native tree of ancestral importance among the indigenous kechua peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This species is grown by the kechua in their backyard gardens, but with expansion of the international market for the guayusa leaves used as tea, it is increasingly being grownin agroforestry systems. The Handbook that we have prepared is intended to ensure that the guayusa trees are grown in sustainable, organic agroforestry systems. Currently I am advising Runa on a major research project comparing biodiversity of guayusa agroforestry systems with other types of successional agroforestry, as well as with secondary and primary forests.