Aside from the clean air that we breathe, we are further researching and understanding how plants impact our lives.

Humans and wildlife rely on plants for oxygen, food, shelter and so many ecological services to create a balance in different ecosystems. Plants play an important role for the MGL communities in providing firewood, medicine, traditional home materials such as vines, cohune palms and sticks. Yet, there is a threat of the unsustainable use of trees year after year. To fully understand the importance of healthy forests it is important to investigate the natural processes that allow a plant to survive.

Along with partners, Ya’axché has embarked on a mission to build local capacity for research and monitoring of tree species in Belize. Of particular interest are the species that have been part of the Belizean culture and economy. To ensure the sustainable use of our tree and plant species there needs to be good information on their life cycles as well as how they are affected by human and natural events to prevent local extinction.

We monitor tagged trees and are continuously taking detailed records of tree height, diameter, and fruit and flower cycles at various sites within Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, Bladen Nature Reserve and Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve. Some of the tagged trees are endangered, vulnerable, and/or useful species such as rosewood, prickly yellow, mahogany and cohune palm.

Cohune palm is a valuable palm species that provides communities with food and shelter roof materials. The traditional Maya home is made of sticks, vines and cohune leaf roof woven into a palapa style. Annually, several community members replace their home roofs and require a significant number of mature cohune leaves. To help maintain a healthy population of palms, Ya’axché has established Sustainable Extraction Zones in Golden Stream Corridor Preserve where cohune leaf stock is regularly monitored.

Rosewood, prickly yellow and mahogany are valuable timber species and vulnerable to illegal logging. Through experimental propagations of these species with seeds and cuttings, we hope to propagate and support reforestation initiatives.

Our parabiologist rangers are trained to monitor these trees alongside expert botanists. The local communities are also an integral part of the monitoring. Ya’axché has built capacity for plant identification and botanical field methods and fosters community discussion on issues that are affecting tree conservation in Belize.

Spathelia belizensis - Steven Brewer

 A new tree species for Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and Belize, Spathelia belizensis. | Photo: Dr Steven Brewer.

Ya’axché uses the data collected from the monitoring to inform conservation actions to avoid the loss of key species.

Read more about our plant and tree monitoring research visit the Downloads webpage.