Human activities and free roaming cattle have led to the deterioration of much of the natural vegetation on the Dutch Caribbean islands. The replacement with invasive exotic plants aggravates the situation. It results in soil degradation and erosion and a flow of nutrients and silt into the sea and onto the corral. Biodiversity both on land and in the sea are at danger. Reforestation is one solution.
Reforestation with indigenous species of trees and shrubs is a long-term process however, that needs careful planning and preparation. The production of sufficient quantities of seedlings of the right kind and quality is crucial.
Researchers Joost van der Burg of Plant Research International and Dolfi Debrot of IMARES (both Wageningen UR) collaborated with John de Freitas of Carmabi (Curaçao) to map the most important seed biological characteristics of the indigenous trees and shrubs of Bonaire. This includes the collection, storage and germination of seeds, ways to break dormancy, and recommended ways for a successful establishment in the field.
The authors discuss the importance of the choice of species in relation to the restoration of biodiversity, with attention to the role that different species play in the various phases of succession.