Empowerment & Restoration Research Park

A forest restoration research station in Mexico’s Balam-Ku Ecosystem Reserve

Planting a single tree is easy. But how do you restore vast, degraded forests and bring back as many of the locally lost species as possible? Which modern, cutting-edge restoration methods are most effective in which location? What does it take to bring a destroyed ecosystem back to life and restore forests that will be able to withstand and mitigate the complex challenges of the climate crisis?

Many important scientific questions remain unanswered. And restoration initiatives around the world are waiting for answers.

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Ongoing Research

Nitrogen-Fixing Species

We set up the first experiment with 16,000 trees in 2020 to understand what percentage of all trees planted should be nitrogen-fixing species to optimize overall survival and growth rates.

Nitrogen-fixing tree species can help to fertilize the soil and help nearby tree species, without the ability to fix nitrogen, to grow.

Continuous Research for Climate Justice
Map of the n-fixer optimisation field experiment in Las Americas 5 with 16,000 seedlings in a randomised block design.

Forest Soil Microbiome Restoration

We are also testing a hypothesis that a simple addition of forest soil to a tree’s planting hole can increase survival rates. We expect to be introducing symbiotic microbes through the soil addition and thus the soil microorganism diversity in degraded soil towards communities that ‘help’ the trees grow.

Continuous Research for Climate Justice

Effect of Diversity of Planted Species on Ecosystem Recovery

In another experiment, set up in September 2021, we aim to determine how rates of forest recovery are influenced by the characteristics of planted tree species. We planted tree species mixes that span a gradient of diversity (both species richness and functional diversity) and evaluate how the characteristics of planted tree species can catalyze ecosystem recovery.

Continuous Research for Climate Justice

Planting Density Optimisation

What is the optimal planting density? That’s one of the key questions in tree planting efforts. To address this, we replicated a range of planting densities across a range of soil conditions in our largest experiment with about one million tree seedlings. This effort was integrated directly into our ongoing restoration effort. We seek to understand how different planting densities affect the short and long term carbon and biodiversity dynamics of regrowing forests in different soil conditions.

Continuous Research for Climate Justice
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Neutral vs Niche Theory: What drives tree diversity in secondary forests?

What are the underlying processes that generate tree diversity in tropical dry forests that have been impacted by human land use? Anna Gee, a Ph.D. student from Imperial College, London aims to answer that question.  Her work explores theories of community assembly that have mainly been developed in undisturbed forests and apply them to disturbed systems to look for changes to the fundamental ecological processes driving forest composition. This work involves large-scale surveys of the seed, seedling, and sapling communities in sites across Las Americas 7. Looking at these early stages in the life cycle of the trees can help to build up a picture of what naturally regenerating forests at this site might look like in the future.

A range of other projects look at germination procedures, seed rain, assisted vs natural regeneration, and post-disturbance community assembly. 

Coming Soon: Restoration Advice Team

Nested within the Empowerment & Restoration Research Park is our Restoration Advice Team. We are building this team of experienced restoration ecologists to provide actionable restoration advice for projects around the world. The advice directly builds on the insights discovered by the research team.

Plant-for-the-Planet already collaborates with more than 200 forest restoration projects in over 50 countries. Many of them will benefit from the support of this team.

Apply to Join the Team
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Infrastructure & Team

Research Team
A botanist, a research coordinator and a team of field assistants support a range of experiments.
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129 ha Experimental Sites

Two mostly-deforested research sites, a total of 129 ha allow for a range of large restoration field experiments.

Additionally, Plant-for-the-Planet’s 20,000 ha of restoration and conservation sites, as well as the 500,000 ha of the Balam-Kú and Balam-Kin reserves, can be used for further (non-destructive) research.

Experimental Nursery
Our on-site nursery with a capacity for 200,000 seedlings can help grow specific species for experiments and allow for experiments on seedlings.
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Shadehouse
For experiments where we need to control water levels, we have a 100 m2 shade house.
Drying Room
With our drying room, we can dry hundreds of soil and plant samples at once before sending them to a lab.
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Office & Accommodation
Our office is a shared space for the restoration, advisory, quality control and research teams.
Tour of the Campus

Research Fellowships
A fieldsite for scientists from all over the world

Universities and research institutes often lack the facilities to offer their students the necessary framework conditions in the open field. Especially when it comes to large-scale experiments that require a lot of space. The Plant-for-the-Planet team offers support for implementation and monitoring, and basic tools and resources are available for planting and measuring experiments. A nursery is included, as well as a seed collection program and technological tools for data collection and monitoring.In addition, Plant-for-the-Planet offers prospective scientists the opportunity to live on the site for the duration of their experiments. 

Interested in becoming a research fellow? Send your application to felix.finkbeiner@plant-for-the-planet.org 

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Support Us!

We need help to set up a range of further, crucial experiments and to build our restoration advice team so that struggling forest restoration projects around the world can benefit from expert advice.

Interested in supporting us? We’d love to hear from you! felix.finkbeiner@plant-for-the-planet.org

Or donate directly!

Donate for Research Park
Laying the Cornerstone
The research site was inaugurated by Mayor Miguel Arcos, Environment Minister Dr. Sandra Laffon, CONAFOR Director Dr. Carlos Tucuch, Plant-for-the-Planet Chair Felix Finkbeiner, UT Calakmul Rector Andrés Zamudio, INIFAP Scientist Fernando Arellano & Plant-for-the-Planet Mexico President Raúl Negrete Cetina
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Research Partners
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Top Partners

Berendsen-Muñoz
Family

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Project Partners
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Scientific Advisors

The research efforts are guided by members of our Scientific Advisory Board
  • Dr. Leland Werden
    Chief Scientific Advisor
    Google Scholar
  • Prof. Dr. Tom Crowther
    Scientific Advisor
    Google Scholar
  • Dr. Colin Averill
    Scientific Advisor
    Google Scholar
  • Prof. Bonnie Waring
    Scientific Advisor
    Google Scholar
  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. h.c. Franz Josef Radermacher
    Scientific Advisor
    Research Gate