Do you think palo santo tree is truly endangered? Do you know how long this tree can live? It’s possible that you don’t have a clear answer for these questions, specially in order to prove that palo santo tree (bursera graveolens) is really endangered
If you search online, there’s no real scientific information that can clarify these doubts. For ths reason we set in motion our laborious task five years ago to answer these and many questions.
As of today, we’re working on a project called Palo Santo Project, Joa 50 hectares, a pilot plan taking place in the commune Joa, in the province of Manabí, Ecuador. Our goal is to restore the dry tropical forest in Manabí. These 50 hectares are a step away from being declared a protected area by the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment (MAE). Within these hectares, we’ve set in motion several tasks, such as reforestation and cleaning the forest where we’ve planted about 9000 palo santo trees in the last two years.
We need to take into consideration that thanks to the reforestation project there are quite a lot of trees in the area, plus trees of others species within the same forest. After the meetings we held for planification, we set in motion the study and structural analysis of the forest, in order to record the trees’ location, and to be able to monitor them constantly.
As to carry on with our investigation, and along with collaborators with expertise on environmental issues, we delimited 24 plots of land using a GPS.
Setting in motion this structural analysis of the forest was quite a challenge. We needed to carry equipment and tools, such as GPS, inclinometers, diameter tape to measure trees’ trunks, 60m of long tape to determine the area of round plots (500 m2 each), as well as a lot of water to stay active throughout the entire journey.
We began on August 9th, 2019, very early in the morning. At around 7:30 a.m., we were picked up to go and explore every plot where the trees grow in order to tag them. We entered the forest to locate the first plot using a GPS as a guide. When we arrived, this device would beep when we approached the spot. We located our reference tree or the center of the round plot in order to define the preset area of 500 m2. Once the area of each plot was delimited, we moved on to tag palo santo trees located within this plot. Characteristics like a tree's height, are measured by a digital inclinometer at exactly 20m of distance from the tree. Using a digital inclinometer means it gives us exact numbers of each tree’s data, that we could later register in our work log, along with visible details such as the presence of leaves, fruit, whether the tree is about to die, whether the tree is close to another tree of other species, or whether the tree is located on a slope.
Sometimes it was difficult to reach some plots because they were on a slope and they were rather difficult to measure. Also, it was difficult to stay on our feet because of spiky trees on our way which could also scratch badly with their spikes.
On three occasions, we were lost in the forest trying to locate plots in higher areas. It was frightening indeed, but one way or another we had to find the way to get back on track and find the spots on our GPS.
During our journey also, we would find fresh snakeskin, which is part of the fauna that inhabits this forest. These snakes were probably close to where we were, but we didn’t let it come in our way to complete our task at hand.
To this day, we’ve tagged about 350 palo santo trees, which are properly ID with a code and properly georeferenced to locate them easily for monitoring their development during the following years. To study this holy wood is a subject of unmeasurable interest for many people worldwide.
Thanks to the efforts of several days of work, we obtained very informative data about what’s their structure like and how important a palo santo tree is in its habitat. Palo santo trees are great storage of carbon, so that means they are great contributors to reduce the carbon print.
All the obtained results during this investigation will be published in a collaboration with the Technical University of Manabí (Universidad Técnica de Manabí) on October 23rd of the ongoing year, in the International Scientific Convention held every year there.
In December of the present year, we will plant an estimate of four thousand more palo santo trees, but in areas with less population of trees at the moment. These activities are contributing to support more and more the restauration of the tropical dry forest where Bursera Graveolens live.