Where have all the birds gone? The sloths? What about the trees on the beach? Not to mention the beach? Semilla de Ballenas is a project to reforest Bahia-Uvita, Costa Rica. Residents want to protect beaches from eroding away as it is already happening. They want to bring wildlife back to town by providing suitable habitats and food for animals who used to call the community home but who have been forced out due to deforestation and development. And shade, shade is a valuable thing in the tropics as people walk the streets or watch a soccer game.
What started as an idea among a few individuals has been embraced by the people, businesses and organizations of Bahia-Uvita. Semilla de Ballena is focused on reforesting areas of the community using local and native trees. To do this, seeds are collected from local and native trees in the community and allowed to germinate in a newly constructed community vivero (or nursery). As these seeds are cared for as they become seedlings and trees strong enough to be transplanted, locations in town are identified and mapped using GPS and GIS technology. Once the trees are planted, their locations are mapped and their health and status accounted for. Thus, as tree maintenance is provided by various volunteers, the trees can be monitored over time.
With the first year of Semilla de Ballena finished, 1,000 trees were planted in the month of October, a down season for tourism in the community. The three species of trees planted were: Manglillo, Sota Caballo and Cedro Maria. Additional species are desired in future years to create a balanced by diverse ecosystem.
What started with a small idea and a desire to reforest the beaches, streams, and mountains of Uvita has turned into a community wide project. As these trees are cared for over the next five years, and more trees are planted, only time will tell if these efforts will have revitalized lost habitat due to development, protected beaches from coastal erosion, and provided shade for residents and tourists alike.
Semilla de Ballena will continue to grow for future generations. Not only through the trees planted and maintained over the course of the year, but as new trees drop seeds to expand reforestation efforts and as more residents and volunteers participate.