METHODS OF R.A.I.N.
We develop practical cheap methods based on solid science to address the related problems of deforestation, erosion, and lost livelihoods in the New World tropics.
The first project in the field of restoration ecology is the Tropical Rainforest Project underway on a private farm in southern Costa Rica, with Dr. F. Lynn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus of Ecology, University of California at Irvine (UCI) leading the effort as Principal Investigator.
In 1992 using her own money, Dr. Carpenter purchased the most eroded farm she could find in southern Costa Rica. She bought 63 acres of typically steep terrain that was cleared of primary rain forest in the 1950s when the southern region was being settled. Over four decades, the land was first intensively farmed in coffee and then converted to cattle pasture as soil eroded and coffee production diminished.
Cattle trails cutting through steep hillsides exposed bare soil, increasing erosion rates. In 1992, the surface was roughly 50% bared subsoil. Native trees might re-establish topsoil through natural processes of nutrient cycling. Early research concentrated on determining what kinds of trees could grow under these conditions and how to improve survival and growth in the few that could.
Subsequent studies examined the roles of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, aluminum-accumulating plants, and grasses in helping restore productivity to these degraded soils. In 2010, Dr. Carpenter retired from full-time teaching to devote herself to the project, expanding its approaches to include more community outreach efforts and practical applications to rural economics.
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R.A.I.N. IN ACTION
Our methods involve sowing special kinds of plants that slow erosion and rebuild topsoil. We test for native trees that can grow in bedrock exposed by erosion. We hunt for plants that can help them, such as certain legumes and grasses. Below are pictures of several experiments over the years.