Exploring Possibilities for Reforestation in Southwestern Nicaragua: The Social and Ecological Dimension of Living Fence Rows (2016)

Client Organization: 
Paso Paci­fico
Project Location : 
Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor, Rivas Department, Nicaragua
Summary of Project Idea: 

Deforestation in southwestern Nicaragua as a result of converting rare dry tropical forest to pastures has created fragmented forest habitats and decreased the potential for this area to continue its historical role as a critical biological corridor. The conservation organization Paso Pacifico works to assess the feasibility for reforestation to increase habitat potential and connectivity in the region. Live fence implementation is one potential reforestation method that Paso Pacifico is interested in exploring. Establishing living fence rows would involve a targeted planting of trees along designated boundaries of pastures, producing certain ecological and subsistence benefits of trees without sacrificing grazing land. Living fence rows are already present in southwestern Nicaragua, but they have not been investigated in regards to landowner use and perception or how different taxa respond to them. Our team explored these dimensions for a sample of living fence rows in the region to provide insight necessary for developing a program for promoting living fence rows. We first conducted a literature review to assess the dual value living fences present in both working and natural landscapes. This synergy allows landowners to participate in conservation efforts while maintaining their livelihood. Then, we conducted semi-structured interviews with landowners who have living fence rows to investigate their perceptions and use of these features. We also performed biological assessments of these existing fence rows in order to better understand their conservation potential. Our findings are that landowners generally perceive living fence rows to be preferable to traditional fence posts. We also project our taxa of interest to be more diverse in living fence rows than traditional fence posts. Following from these findings, we developed recommendations for further research to continue to explore the potential for living fence rows to address ecological challenges in the agricultural landscape of southwestern Nicaragua.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Ivette Perfecto
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Elizabeth Dorgay, MS Conservation Ecology
  • Andrew Klooster, MS Environmental Justice 
  • Rachel Muelle, MS Sustainable Systems 
Project Status: 
Past Project