Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category
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You are currently browsing the archives for the Sustainability category.
Adventure Tours from Hacienda Guchipelin has recently been awarded with Level 4 in sustainability. This is a great recognition for the effort to be more sustainable in all of our practices and all of our work. The best part of it is that the staff has a new way of looking at things.
According to the the Ministry of Tourism of Costa Rica in the web site:
Sustainability, as a model of development, seeks to meet the current demands of society without compromising the rights of future generations to meet theirs. That is to say, the development of the country cannot be based on the unbalanced exploitation of resources (natural, cultural, social, etc.) to meet the demands of society (food, housing, health, employment) because these are the only resources we have, and that future generations have, to meet our and their own needs.
I lace up my boots and clip snake-gators around my shins. I pull my machete from the leather sheath and whet it across the sharpener as the sky shifts from pale orange to blue. The iguana that lives in the roof, discontented with my noise; shuffles above me, his long toes scratching the tin. I glance over at the field bags and go through a mental check list of the equipment to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything: datasheets, compass, soil samplers, flagging, ziplocks, sharpies, caliper, DBH tape. Check, check, check. My research assistant, Juan, and I load the field equipment into the car and head down the bumpy dirt road.
I am in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and it is nearing the end of the dry season. It hasn’t rained since November. Occasionally a wispy cloud will dampen the sun’s strength and I’ll look up, confused. The dry season feels like a washed-out photo; everything is overly bright and I squint in search of contrast. My car’s dash board is covered in a thick film of dust from driving on farm roads. Waves of dusk billow up from the roads and pass through the window in sets so consistent a surfer could set her watch by it.
Guanacaste province gleaned it’s named from the wide-canopied dry forest tree with seedpods shaped like ears. Guanacaste is one of the larger provinces in Costa Rica, bordered on the north by Nicaragua and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. I am here studying tropical dry forests; one of the earths most endangered ecosystems.
For part of the year in Costa Rica, moisture-laden warm air flows off the Caribbean Ocean. The warm air pushes up against Costa Rica’s volcanic spine, cooling as it rises, until it reaches the dew point and rain falls on the windward slope, creating a rain shadow on the other side of the mountain. The leeward slope, then, is haunted by intense dry winds. During the other half of the year, the winds come off the Pacific Ocean, bringing the rains. Tropical dry forest fauna and flora have evolved to cope with the strong seasonality to the rainfall.
When I arrived last September, the forest was as green as a summer garden. Leaves broad, full, verdant. The drought-deciduous trees species began to lose their leaves when the rains stopped. Now in April, a mountaintop view looks not unlike a temperate winter landscape—if you replace the thin-needed pines with broad-leaf evergreens, subtract the snow, and spin the thermostat up to 95 degrees F. Okay, so they are quite different: no coat required. Also, many TDF trees flower during the dry season so, amidst the mostly nude forest, bouquets of yellow, pink, purple dot the landscape.
The car windows are wide open and the wind rolls through carrying a campfire smell. The air often smells burnt during the dry season, especially in the last couple months. Before people settled in Guanacaste, the main source of fire would have been lightning—in the wet season. People have introduced a fire regime that peaks in the driest months. I drive out of the trees and notice the smoke on the road ahead. The dry, reedy pasture grass on farms on either side of the road is aflame. I have worked on both of these farms. I can see a few trees burning and a wall of hazy smoke across the asphalt. My car hits the smoke and it swirls off the car in tornados.
TDF have been disproportionately settled because it has relatively nutrient-rich soils and a climate favorable for growing crops and raising livestock. And if you’ve ever lived in a tropical rain forest or cloud forest—you’ll know that even freshly laundered T-shirts, folded and put away in a clean dresser begin to smell like the musty back corner of a forgotten part of your garage within a few days. It’s no wonder people preferred sunshine.
I glance in the rearview mirror and can still see the smoke lifting from the fire we passed. Although management patterns are changing, some people still use fire to “clean” pasture. They burn pastures to clear out early forest successional growth and entice new pasture grass to sprout for hungry livestock. Also, crops like sugar cane are burned after the harvest to remove crop residues. Landowners can apply for a burn permit with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment but illegal burns are common. Regardless of the source or legality of the burn, once a fire escapes, landowners face another problem; there are not enough resources to fight forest fires on private farms. There are fire fighters. Area de Conservación de Guanacaste (ACG), with upwards of 290,000 acres of land, has a trained team firefighters that are kept busy protecting both the immense park and bordering forests on private farms. City fire fighters, on the other hand, must focus their efforts on fires that encroach upon buildings, towns, and roads. Basically, there are not enough resources to fight all the fires on private farms. If the landowner has employees and equipment, they will often fight the fires. But, frequently, the private forests just burn. I drive past the road that runs up the flanks of Rincón de la Vieja volcano. When I was hiking there last week, I stopped at a lookout point and counted seven fires. They looked like industrial smokestacks scattered in the forested landscape.
Guanacaste is in the middle of a forest transition. In the 1970s and 1980s deforestation rates were high, but beginning in the mid-1980s Guanacaste has had high rates of forest regeneration. Importantly, the overwhelming majority of that regeneration has occurred on private lands. What I’m trying to find out is who owns these regenerating forests and how ownership might influence the ecology and management.
I am interested in coupled human-natural systems—intrigued by the links between society and environment. Here in Guanacaste I am looking at how tree biodiversity and carbon storage are influenced by socioeconomic variables such as land ownership. I am interested in how the choices landowners make could influence forest regeneration processes. For example, ranchers retain certain tree species on their lands for the shade or fruit provided for their cattle. Landowners often select particular species such as indio desnudo (Bursura simaruba) to use as live fence posts—fences made of living trees connected by lines of barbed-wire. Indio desnudo is a great live fence post tree because it resprouts so easily: You can cut off a branch, plunk it in the ground and, viola, you’ll get a tree. Landowners may also be more likely to remove ‘weedy’, fast growing species from their pastures and retain valuable timber species such as mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). These choices may influence the forest biodiversity and carbon stocks in private forests. After completing forest inventory plots on private farms, I will compare my data to a dataset from public forests collected by my adviser. We will use these datasets to test the hypotheses that private forests contain less biodiversity and carbon stocks than public secondary forest of similar ages and soil conditions.
Juan and I arrive at our new farm site. I stop briefly to talk with the farm manger; he is sitting atop a big tractor outfitted with a water container to fight the fires that are on the upper border of the property. Juan and I will work on the lower border of the property to avoid the fires. We drive to the lower part of the property and Juan hops out to struggle with the gate—five wrist-thick branches strung together with barbed-wire. The car lumbers down the road through the pasture and we arrive at a patch of forest. In the forest plot today, we will identify tree species to assess tree biodiversity. For carbon estimates, we’ll measure tree diameter at 1.3 m take species-specific wood density samples to plug into allometric equations. Within the plot, we will also collect soil samples to assess soil physical and chemical properties. We heft on our backpacks and swing the field bags over our shoulders. I rope the machete around my waist in case I need to give the spiked bromeliads in the forest plot a haircut.
The day starts out early. My assistant, Juan, and I are in the car driving towards Rincon de la Vieja a little after 6 am. We arrive at Hacienda Lodge Guachipelin and greet the owner, Don Tomas. He sets us up in the restaurant to talk about the land. I have worked with many landowners here in Guanacaste—I’ve had farm limits sketched for me with sticks in dusty patches of earth—but Don Tomas pulls up google earth and shows us the forest, rivers, roads, and points out the property limits.
Juan and I hop back in the car and head towards a patch of oak forest. Juan and I will delineate a forest plot that is 50 by 20 m. Within the plot, we will measure and identify all tree species with a girth of 5 cm or above at 1.3 m height. I have been working in farms all around Guanacaste for the past 7 months and the data from this plot will be added to the dataset I am building of private forests in Guanacaste. I will use this dataset to assess tree biodiversity and carbon stocks on private farms within Guanacaste. Within the plot, we will also collect soil samples to assess soil chemical and physical properties. For the carbon stocks, I will use species-specific wood density measurements to estimate the carbon stored in trees. Costa Rica has done a superb job of protecting forests—25% of Costa Rican land is officially protected. Yet the majority of forests (~76%) are on private lands. Therefore, understanding carbon stocks in private forest are important for helping Costa Rica reach its goal of becoming the first carbon neutral nation by 2021.
The first plot we set up on Hacienda Lodge Guachipelin property is young secondary forests of between 10—15 years. The plot is dense with young trees and Juan and I maneuver through the stand and place the flags to outline the plot. Juan gets started collecting the soils and I measure tree girth and identify species. The plot is within an oak (Quercus oleoides) dominated forest; interestingly, Guanacaste is the Sothern limit of the oak genus.
Also in the plot are the ubiquitous bullhorn acacia (Acacia cornigera). Bullhorned acacia have a remarkable symbiotic relationship with ants; the plant provides a place for the ants to live (hallow thorns) and food to eat (glands that produce sugars). The ants, in return, provide fierce protection. If you have ever bumped up against a bullhorned acacia, you’ll know instantly the fiery sting of that protection. On a bullhorned acacia in the plot I notice a beetle who has impaled himself on the needle end of a thorn. The ants are furious and swarming and the poor beetle is flailing. I feel like I am watching an action packed sequence on the Discovery Channel.
Once we complete the plot, we drive to another part of the property and find some oak forest that is about 20-25 years. This plot is much more pleasant to work in—the canopy is dense, are birds singing above us as we work, and there are lovely purple-flowered vines in bloom.
This plot is also an oak-dominated forest but there are a few species that I haven’t come across yet in Guanacaste. Although I’ve been avidly studying the tree species, there are still plenty that I am not familiar with. When I come across a tree species that I don’t know, I do one of two things: (1) collect leaf samples for later identification or (2) tag the tree with biodegradable flagging and return with a botanical expert. Today I am tagging, so I slip blue tagging tape around the tree. The next tree I measure is one of my favorites, perhaps because I learned it early on so it feels like an old acquaintance Madroño (Calycophyllum candidissimum). The genus name, Calycophyllum, is fitting because the tree bark is the color of a calico cat.
Juan and I finish up the plot and head out of the forest. This has been a great day. We head down the road as the sun turns top of the forest orange.
As mentioned on the Ethical Travel recent publication , Costa Rica, a small Central American country, was declared one of the 10 most ethical destinations. Environmental protection, Social welfare and Human rights are elements evaluated to create the Ethical List.
“We sincerely hope that travelers will refer to this list when planning their 2011 journeys. By visiting the countries mentioned here, we “vote with our wings”—sending a signal that travelers are aware of where their money is going, and willing to support nations that care about the environment, human rights, and the global community.” as mentioned by ethicaltraveler.org.
Not only has Costa Rica has been declared as one of the most ethical destinations, but also as the happiest country in the world.
Hacienda Guachipelin is a mountain and adventure hotel located in the west part of the country on the foot of Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. For reservations or information please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
A total of 102 businesses, including hotels and tour operators, yesterday received an acknowledgment certifying that its operations are environmentally friendly and also with the community where they are installed.
The activity was held yesterday at INBio, Santo Domingo de Heredia, in which representatives of the National Accreditation Committee (composed of the UCR, InBio, Minaet, Inca, Canatur and ICT, among others) provided the so-called “certificates for Sustainable Tourism. ”
“We are very pleased with the work that was done, not only environmental benefit but also for our contributions to society. It takes will and commitment from management levels to the lowest, “
Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin was recognized yesterday for its efforts in sustainability and corporate responsability .
Sustainability, as a model of development, seeks to meet the current demands of society without compromising the rights of future generations to meet theirs. The development of the country cannot be based on the unbalanced exploitation of resources to meet the demands of society. This is why the Costa Rica government created the CST, the certification for sustainable tourism. The CST strengthens the image of the country as an authentic environmental destination, considerably raising the competitiveness of the national tourist product.
A business like Hacineda Guachipelin will see improved efficiency within its operations through efficient handling of resources. As and end result there will be significant savings, a reduction in sources of pollution , and waste reduction.
Recently Hacienda Guachipelin was reevaluated by the Costarrican Ministry of Tourism and the certification was upgraded from 1 leaf to 2 leafs. This is proof of the effort that the staff of Hacienda Guachipelin is working with sustainable practices. This is Guachipelin’s compromise with todays and future generations.
Hacienda Guachipelin is located on the foot of Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. This national park has an area of 14,083 hectares and is divided into two sectors: Las Pailas and Santa María. The park contains nine volcanic cones and one lake, La Jilgueros. Pailas Sector: Trail (7.5 km) to the Von Seebach (1,898 meters above sea level) and Rincon de la Vieja (1,806 meters above sea level) craters; trail to las pailas (2.77 km); trail to La Cangreja (5.1 km) and Escondidas (4.3 km) waterfalls; trail to the Río Blanco pool (600 m); trail to fumaroles and mud volcanoes. For reservations contact our reservations office at email@example.com , from US or Canada Call Toll Free 1-888-730-3840 . There are great season packages for the month of September and October of 2010. For hotels with certification for sustainability check this link.