Camino Verde News

Presenting… Camino Verde Heritage Tree Species
December 31, 2009

In the richness of biodiversity of the Amazon basin, thousands of different species of trees make up the astonishingly varied body of the forest.  For the people who call the Amazon home, certain key trees find their way into daily use and daily conversation as stand-outs in the vast sea of organisms.  Whether for medicine, for timber, or for any one of countless other uses, these trees are woven into the fabric of mythic lore and quotidian utility and represent some of the forest's dearest treasures. 

But it is the very usefulness of these species that so often places them at risk, with the constant human appetite for raw materials often outpacing the ability of wild tree populations to regenerate themselves.  In many cases the populations are so ravaged that the genetic diversity of a species can be threatened.  All too many Amazonian trees have been included on the IUCN Red List, and other measures for imperilled organisms.

Stemming from Camino Verde's commitment to protecting the biodiversity of the Amazon, every year we select at least one of the Amazon's prized and over-exploited tree species for reforestation.  These Heritage Tree Species are those trees that are in direct danger of genetic degradation or extinction.  Some of the species are familiar--mahogany for example--and others are practically unknown outside of the region.  For a tree to be recognized as a Heritage Tree Species, we plant at least 50 seedlings, and in most cases many more, to create a relatively diverse genetic base in alignment with our vision of a Living Seed Bank of jungle trees. 

So far, the Heritage Tree Species are the following:

mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) Spanish cedar (Cedrela odorata) high Spanish cedar (Cedrela fissilis) teak (Tectona grandis)--exotic chihuahuaco/ironwood (Dipteryx macrantha) copaiba (Copaifera sp.) pau d'arco (Tabebuia serratifolia) sangre de grado (Croton sp.) azúcar huayo (Hymenaea sp.) copoazú (Theobroma grandiflora)

For the coming planting season of 2010, we plan to add a wonderful tree to this list: moena alcanforada (Ocotea sp.).  Check back for more Heritage Species in the future.

Living Seed Bank
The planting season has begun
December 31, 2009

The rainy season is officially underway in Madre de Dios, Peru, and with it our planting season as well.  Today, our first tree seedlings of this year´s planting campaign headed up the Tambopata River.  Our goal for the campaign is 1000 trees of several different species, including spanish cedar (Cedrela sp.) and camphorated moena (Ocotea sp.) among many others. 

Living Seed Bank
Deforestation in Madre de Dios makes headlines
December 31, 2009

One of Lima, Peru´s foremost newspapers, El Comercio, featured deforestation in the Madre de Dios region on the cover page last month.  The article is Spanish only.  Its title translates as "Brutal Deforestation in Madre de Dios."

Announcing Camino Verde Baltimori ACP
October 31, 2009

The Peruvian government has created several avenues for the conservation of important ecosystems, the foremost of these being national protected areas including National Parks and Reserves.  Recent laws have set into place a new format for conservation, áreas de conservación privada (ACP), or private conservation areas.  Privately owned lands are voluntarily designated as ACPs by the landowners and are recognized by Peru«s Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture.

Camino Verde is pleased to announce that the virgin rainforests of our land in the community of Baltimori will soon constitute an officially-recognized ACP, designated simply "Camino Verde Baltimori."  The conservation of this virgin forest is a proud achievement and ongoing commitment, and we are happy that our efforts will now be backed by government recognition. 

Conservation of Primary Forests
Return of the harpy eagle
October 31, 2009

The mother eagle is back!  In 2007 we were ecstatic to discover within Camino Verde's land a nest of the Americas' largest raptor: the harpy eagle (harpia harpyja).  With frequent screeches and a few incredible close sightings, we confirmed that the nest was occupied by a mother and an infant male.  Ever since the nest was first spotted, we have been the proud protectors of this exquisite species. 

After the young eagle matured through adolescence to full size, the nest was abandoned and began to fall to pieces.  Before long, only a few sticks were left in the crux of the chihuahuaco (ironwood) tree that had once housed this magnificent avian.  We were initially concerned that the departure of the eagle was due to the noise and crash of nearby chainsaw crews harvesting wood from a neighbor's parcel.  For almost two years, the remains of the nest sat as a sad reminder of how fragile the Amazon's ecosystems are.

This week our concerns were joyfully discarded when we discovered the nest rebuilt and looking robust once more.  A biologist specializing in harpy eagles assured us that the mother had returned right on schedule: harpy eagles tend to revisit the same trees to nest, but ovate only every two or three years.  We are grateful to be able to continue to witness the life cycle of one of the rainforest's fiercest predators, an animal that commonly feeds on large mammalian prey like the howler monkey and the sloth. 

With the inspiration of the eagle's presence we continue to plant chihuahuaco trees annually.  The "iron of the forest" is a true jungle hardwood-- incredibly dense and heavy, and containing so much iron that compasses malfunction in the tree's vicinity.  Dypterix odorata (the tree's scientific name) is one of but three species in which the harpy will nest.  Along with brazil nut (castaña) and giant kapok (lupuna), chihuahuaco forms a crucial part of the canopy's emergent (highest) layer, often towering thirty feet above the next tallest trees-- an excellent perch for a winged hunter.  Unfortunately, chihuahuaco is also the source of beautiful and durable timber and excellent charcoal.  Felling of ironwoods has accelerated rapidly in the last five years, threatening vital habitat for Amazonian eagles.  Camino Verde's wild forests are home to many of these exceptional forest giants, with more being planted each year in protection of the genetic diversity of the species. 

See the chihuahuaco entry in our Trees Database.

Conservation of Primary Forests