Demonstration plots

In collaboration with the Ban Mae Sa Mai villagers, FORRU has planted experimental framework species plots annually since 1998 on former evergreen forest land at 1,300 m elevation in the watershed above the village. Much of the research work was funded by Thailand's Biodiversity Research and Training Program (Final Report). Continued planting and maintenance of the nursery and plots at Ban Mae Sa Mai have also been funded by a range of organisations, including the WWF, KingPower Duty Free, and the Chiang Mai Citylife magazine. The original framework tree species plots planted in 1998 passed their 10th birthday and provide an impressive demonstration of the potential of the framework species methods for biodiversity and forest ecosystem recovery.

What do trees planted during restoration have to offer local animals?

Framework tree species are selected for their ability to 
 roduce resources, soon after planting, which attract seed-dispersing animals. These can include nectar, fruit, nesting material or nest sites. We found that Ficus subincisa, Ficus abellii, Macaranga denticulata, Rhus rhetsoides, Brassiopsis ficifolia, Callicarpa arborea, Castanopsis tribuloides, Eugenia grata, Ficus semicordata, Ficus hispida, Glochidion kerrii, Heynea trijuca, Machilus bombycina, and Prunus cerasoides all flowered or fruited within three years after planting.
Also in the first three years, birds nests were found in
 Rhus rhetsoides, Balakata baccatum, Quercus semiserata, Prunus cerasoides, Ficus semicordata, Ficus glaberima, and Ficus subincisa. 

Erythrina subumbrans and Melia toosendan attracted the greatest diversity of bird species. Many trees provided habitat for insects and insectivorous birds were naturally attracted to such trees. 

Did the planted trees attract birds and mammals?

Before planting at Ban Mae Sa Mai, only 30 bird species were found on the site but after 6 years of forest restoration activities, 87 species were recorded. This huge increase in bird species is probably due to the mosaic of different aged planted plots that have been created, intermingled with open areas and agricultural fields. Birds typical of dense forest have increased whilst those that prefer open sites have declined. The most important birds species for seed dispersal are the Blue-throated Barbet, Black-crested Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Flavescent Bulbul, Oriental white-eye and Japanese White-eye. 

Medium sized mammals re-colonised the planted plots rapidly following canopy closure. Ban Mae Sa Mai villagers and FORRU staff have either seen or recognised the signs of Common Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak), Common Wild Dog (Sus scrofa), Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis), Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica), Hog Badger (Arctonyx collaris), Large Indian Civet (Viverra zibetha), Burnese Ferrer-Badger (Melogale personata), Siamese Hare (Lepus peguensis), Hoary Bamboo Rat (Rhizomys prunosus), Javan Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), and fruit bats (probably Cynopteris spp.). Seed predators, such as rat and mouse species declined, as these animals prefer open areas with dense weed cover.

What happened to tree species diversity over time?

Tree species diversity has increased in the planted plots by almost twofold, compared with non-planted plots (control plots). Initially 29-30 tree species were planted in each plot but now the saplings or seedlings of 61 additional tree species have been recorded, growing from seeds brought to the plots by animals or blown there by the wind. Some of the more common naturally establishing recruit species include Albizia chinensis, Antidesma acidum, Aporusa villosa, Eugenia fruticosa, Ficus hirta var. hirta, Glochidion acuminatum, Heynea trijuga, Litsea monopetala, Phoebe lanceolata and Schima walichii.

What does this all mean?

Once tree species are planted and cared for appropriately, a cascade of consequent events cause biodiversity to increase. Firstly, the planted trees themselves contribute to increased species richness of trees. As the planted trees mature, they start to produce various resources that attract mammals, insects and birds which also constitute increased biodiversity. Seeds brought in by some of these animals germinate and grow into a second generation of tree species, which provide the third level of biodiversity recovery. Therefore, forest restoration using the framework tree species method does stimulate biodiversity recovery. This research demonstrates that it is possible to restore forests and their associated animal communities on degraded land in northern Thailand, in just a few years.

Framework Species Profiles for Upland Forests in Northern Thailand

Profiles of the best performing species have been created, following extensive nursery propogation trials and field testing: