Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Role of the Araucaria in Brazil reforestation

Once, some 150 to 200 million years ago, Brazil was covered in Araucaria forests, and now only 2 % is left. Yet in the South of Brazil the Araucaria tree is playing a new role in reforestation of what was until recently pastureland mainly for cows. Along the roads, the Araucaria tree is being used as a soil stabilizer and as scout for newly colonizing forest vegetation and birds. It is fascinating that one of the older species of trees is now being used in these new strategies of 'Agro-ecologia de Montanha'.

petrified Araucaria cones from a long long time ago

You can see that this tree wanted to develop defenses against large herbivores such as the Argentino-Saurus living in the neighborhood and probably devouring everything in its way to sustain its 80 to 100 ton body. This is a nice example of what the Buddhist call "interdependent co-arising".
Not only are the 'leaves' sharp, the the actual trunk has also developed woody spikes to deter any easy munching. This is perhaps the reason why the tree is also known as the Monkey Puzzle tree -- even monkeys will have a hard time to scale this tree. Yet despite its obvious aggressive resistance to obliteration, this holdover from Jurassic times, is actually really generous.
Through its cones the Araucaria produces copious amounts of 'pinhao', kind of an edible pinion nut but about 5 times as big. This delicious and protein rich nut provides ample nutrition for animals and humans alike. If planted correctly ('up') with fresh pinhao, it will grow rapidly and is tolerant to high moisture conditions. This combo of aggressive defense and generousity has proven to be a worthy survival strategy for the Araucaria species --it is still around while the dinosaurs are long gone.
Within 20 years it will grow into a large tree, inviting so many other species to also colonize and inhabit a new area. Biodiversity is the key to survival.

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