We Lead Research and Develop Tactics to Help Forests Withstand Climate Change
Over the last 22 years, American Forests has planted more than 2 million thornscrub trees and other native plants across more than 4,000 acres of former agricultural land in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Our reforestation innovations include:
Planting species that will be able to better withstand future conditions
Climate change is altering the Lower Rio Grande Valley so swiftly that some plants will not be able to survive in certain areas in the future. At each reforestation site, we plant a diverse array of native species that are better adapted to future conditions like increasing drought.
Selecting and growing genetically diverse seeds
We collect seeds across the Lower Rio Grande Valley from a wide variety of individual plants. This ensures that our seedlings are genetically diverse. Diverse plant genetics are important as climate change makes future conditions ever more unpredictable. For example, certain populations of a given thornforest tree species may prove to have higher drought tolerance than others. Collecting and raising seedlings from these populations is critical for boosting the region’s natural capacity for adaptation.
Site preparation tactics that help native plants outcompete invasive species
Reforestation in the Lower Rio Grande is a constant battle against invasive plants like Guinea and buffel grass. We carefully prepare planting sites by using machinery, selective herbicide applications and/or controlled fires to clear away invasives that would otherwise overrun new plantings.
Seedling shelter tubes that dramatically increase plant survival
We plant seedlings in reusable plastic tubes that protect the young plants from drying out in the region’s hot, dry winds. The moisture retention provided by the tubes also encourages seedlings to grow tall and develop deep roots, which helps them outcompete invasive species. In some cases, these tubes have boosted two-year seedling survival rates from less than 10 to over 90 percent.
We Work with Local Partners to Protect Thornforest Biodiversity
American Forests formed the Thornforest Conservation Partnership in 2018 to develop science-based conservation plans and goals for the entire Lower Rio Grande Valley. The partnership also educates the public about the importance of thornforests, and encourages action for stronger public policies and funding. The Thornforest Conservation Partnership is a coalition of state and federal agencies, universities, nonprofits and community organizations.
The Thornforest Conservation Partnership identifies potential thornforest restoration sites that will have the biggest positive impact for the region’s unique wildlife. The ultimate goal is to reforest areas in between existing thornforest patches. These forested “corridors” will help ocelots and other animals travel more freely and safely.