Sunday, July 27, 2014
While walking through patches of dry forest in Guayaquil in the high and deep part of the Cordillera Chongon-Colonche and let a canoe lead you on the calm current of one of the estuaries of the estero Salado that coexist with mangrove forest, Nancy Hilgert and Eric Horstman not only remember how these ecosystems were when they arrived in the city 38 and 24 years ago respectively, they also expound measures that they consider if applied could save these areas.
They are familiar with the howl of monkeys that from a distance announce that the dry forest is their home, with the crackling of the large maroon colored leaves that every six months the trees of this ecosystem drop to survive the dry season, as well as the smells, somewhat rotting of the saltwater estuary.
Although they weren´t born in Guayaquil – Eric is American and Nancy was born in Peru but became a naturalized Ecuadorian, have dedicated themselves to the conservation of these natural areas, Horstman the dry forest through the Pro-Forest Foundation that administers Cerro Blanco and Hilgert both dry forest and mangroves from a professorship, diverse NGO´s and public appointments.
This newspaper invited them to traverse these natural areas in order to evaluate them. In the visits proposals came out to restore the areas, which according to Hilgert ¨is a necessity to improve the quality of life of Ecuadorians¨. This was said while the canoe advanced through the estuary bordered by mangroves where cormorants, mangrove warblers and herons are seen.
Both propose connecting the protected forests that have become isolated in the middle of the city and to do that they propose options including canopy bridges (connecting portions of the forest through the tree canopy), subterranean tunnels so that terrestrial fauna can move through and regenerate zones that make up ecological corridors.
One is connecting the Cerro Blanco, Papagayo de Guayaquil, La Prosperina and Cerro Paraiso Protected Forests with the Cordillera Chongon-Colonche.
Another possible connection they say is to integrate what remains of Cerro Colorado where the botanical garden functions with Los Samanes National Recreation Area. This could be achieved through reforesting a parcel that borders the Los Geranios housing development.
An action that could be applied for the conservation of both ecosystems is reforestation or ¨restoration¨, as Horstman prefers to call it.
This forester says that in the case of dry forest, reforestation could be done with introduced species such as eucalyptus and teak, but restoration requires instead, endemic species such as pigio, ceibo, Amarillo and cocobolo. With this, what is returned to the city is what was formerly found there, which was cut down to drive urban development.
As for the conservation of the mangrove forest, Hilgert sustains that the current environmental legislation must be reformed to establish permissible limits to the discharges of residual waters (sewage) to bodies of water, which currently does not establish quantities (volume of discharges).
On this point, both agree that closing ¨the faucets of contamination¨ the estero Salado receives, the mangrove forests can be saved.
According to Horstman, restoration can also be done on adjacent lands to the mangroves to extend them and on the higher land plant dry forest to re establish the connectivity that once existed between the two areas.
In Puerto Hondo, he says trees such as pechiche have been seen to extend down to the waters edge, which means that dry forest once was found down to the edge of the mangroves.