Yucatán Restoration

Protecting and regrowing the Mayan forests of the Yucatan Peninsula

€1 = 1 Tree planted

Donate Trees

Yucatán Restoration

Protecting and regrowing the Mayan forests of the Yucatan Peninsula

€1 = 1 Tree planted

Donate Trees
until the start of the planting season 2024
2,288,521
Trees
planted in the 2023 Planting Season
Trees
planted since 2015
of native trees
A project by Plant-for-the-Planet Mexico, supported by Plant-for-the-Planet Worldwide.

Replanting Pastures and Restoring Forests

We are working to restore the forest landscapes in and around the San Felipe Bacalar Natural Protected Area, as well as the Balam-Kú nature reserve and Calakmul Biosphere Reserves. Our work takes place within 20,000 hectares, an area larger than the country of Liechtenstein.

Our sites have suffered different levels of degradation: Some areas are recently abandoned cattle pastures with only a few scattered trees left (like parts of Las Americas 5 & 7).

Other areas were never fully deforested, but either economically valuable trees have been logged or significant proportions of the forest were destroyed by fires (like San Felipe Bacalar A and B), leaving behind relatively species-poor vegetation. In other areas, the forest is still full of many species and we are either conserving it or letting it grow back on its own (like Las Americas 3 & 4).

According to Global Forest Watch estimations, deforestation in the three states of the Yucatán peninsula (Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán) accounted for 42.3% of all forests lost between 2001 and 2020 across Mexico.

Mexico is the home of 12% of the world's biodiversity. That makes it the 5th most megadiverse country. Nonetheless it suffers from one of the worlds highest rates of deforestation.

Explore the sites

Where the trees are planted – updated daily

Planting sites are registered daily with TreeMapper, a free forest monitoring app we built.

Trees Planted in 2023

When we plant or pause is dictated by the rain. Our teams usually work 10.5 days straight before an extended weekend. Planting took place between the 2nd of August and the 22 of December. In 2023 we planted 2,288,521 trees.

Trees Planted in 2022 Planting Season (June–December)

When we plant or pause is dictated by the rain. Our teams usually work 10.5 days straight before an extended weekend. Planting took place between the 3rd of June and the 13th of December. In 2022 we planted 2,386,462 trees.

Trees Planted in 2021 Planting Season (July–December)

In 2021, we planted a total of 1,665,383 trees.
    Continuous Research for Climate Justice
    Map of the n-fixer optimisation field experiment in Las Americas 5 with 16,000 seedlings in a randomised block design.

    Restoration Ecology Research Station

    Our restoration work allows our in-house academic research team and visiting scholars to conduct large-scale field trials to test restoration methods.
    Learn More

    41 Tree Species
    One Ecosystem

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    We want to restore these forests to capture carbon and to protect the local biodiversity of plant, animal, fungal and other species. We are continually increasing the number of species we plant. After working with 21 species in 2021, we worked with 33 species in 2022.

    This includes many early successional species for our restoration in formerly pasture sites and dense wood species in our enrichment planting work.

    To grow all these species, we have a nursery in José María Morelos, are working with a close local partner nursery in Chuina and have built a research nursery at our Restoration Research Park in Constitución, Campeche to test germination protocols and run restoration ecology experiments.

    Restoration in Yucatán: 7 Steps from Devastation to Biodiversity

    Semi-evergreen Tropical Forest

    We aim to restore a seasonal semi-evergreen tropical forest. Unlike the wetter forests we imagine when we think of the tropics, these forests have 4–6 month long dry seasons where only little rain falls. Where we work, 25–50% of the trees drop their leaves during that time because they are water stressed.

    In the state of Campeche, where our work takes place, 8.1% of the original forest has been lost since 2002. Restoring this ecosystem is not just important for plants, but also the animals. In Campeche, jaguars and tapirs are in danger of extinction because of deforestation, habitat fragmentation and incidental deaths by human encounters.

    In our sites, we often wake up to the sound of howler monkeys near the camp and see box turtles while planting. So far, only Nicolas, Juan and Jose have seen Jaguars.

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    In a semi-evergreen forest, some trees lose their leaves in the dry season (Picture of forest near our office in the Yucatán)

    Forest Conservation

    The Balam-Kú and Balam-Kin reserves, together larger than Luxembourg, are two of the most important tropical dry forest reserves (Zones Subject to Ecological Conservation). The reserves' stretch 145km from their northern most to southern most point. They act as a refuge for local biodiversity, especially for animals in the dry season. It is home to jaguars and ocelots. 
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    In close collaboration with the government of Campeche, we support the reserve authority in protecting this ecosystem, for instance by funding and equipping a small team of rangers.
    Donate for Conservation
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    Balam-Kú & Balam-Kin Reserves in the State of Campeche
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    Report on Restoration 2021

    INIFAP is the national institute for forestry, agriculture and livestock research in Mexico. Together with INIFAP, we are implementing the renaturation in the Bacalar project areas.
    More about INIFAP

    Annual Technical and Financial Report 2021

    English (Translation)
    Download

    Annual Technical and Financial Report 2021

    Spanish (Original)
    Download

    Activities carried out, recommendations and
    Experiences from the year 2021

    English (Translation)
    Download

    Activities carried out, recommendations and
    Experiences from the year 2021

    Spanish (Original)
    Download

    Our 119 Team Members

    Seasonally working staff is to be added to our permanently employed colleagues.

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    85 Reforesters

    Plant trees in the wet season and help trees grow by cleaning fast-growing grasses with machetes in the dry season (about 1/3 work seasonally)

    5 Field Crew Leaders

    Manage teams of 15 reforesters in the field.
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    13 Nursery technicians

    Collect seeds, grow seedlings, and prepare them for planting (not directly employed by Plant-for-the-Planet).

    8 Ecologists and forest engineers

    Select restoration sites, plan outplanting, maintenance and organise experiments.
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    4 Data collectors

    Measure trees, look for signs of disease and collect leaf, root and soil samples

    3 Cooks

    Work in our two kitchens and provide three meals a day to all team members
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    1 Mechanic

    Maintains our seedling-trucks, buses, tractors and backhoes
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    Our Las Americas Restoration Team near our office in Constitucion, Campeche in 2021

    Our 119 Team Members

    Seasonally working staff is to be added to our permanently employed colleagues
    Image

    85 Reforesters

    Plant trees in the wet season and help trees grow by cleaning fast-growing grasses with machetes in the fry season (about 1/3 work seasonally)
    Image

    5 Field Crew Leaders

    Manage teams of ~15 reforesters in the field.
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    13 Nursery technicians

    Collect seeds, grow seedlings, and prepare them for planting (not directly employed by Plant-for-the-Planet).
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    8 Ecologists and forest engineers

    Select reforestation sites, plan outplanting, maintenance and organise experiments.
    Image

    4 Data collectors

    Measure trees, look for signs of disease and collect leaf, root and soil samples
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    3 Cooks

    Work in our two kitchens and provide three meals a day to all team members
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    1 Mechanic

    Maintains our seedling-trucks, buses, tractors and backhoes
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    Project Leader

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    Raul Negrete
    President of Plant-for-the-Planet A.C. (Mexico)
  • Raul, a civil engineer, works as an independent property appraiser. He grew up in Chetumal – about two hours away from our restoration sites – and has supported Plant-for-the-Planet since cofounding Plant-for-the-Planet Mexico in 2013. Since then, he has built and led our Mexico team – from the first academies we organised here in 2013, via the first tree planted in the Yucatán Restoration program in 2015 to the begin of our forest conservation work in 2022.

    Advisory Board

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    Dr. Sandra Laffon Leal
    President of Universidad Autónomia de Carmen, Former Minister of the Environment
    Campeche
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    Dr. Ruben Dario Gongora
    Director
    INIFAP Quintana Roo
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    Dr. Carlos Tucuch
    Director
    CONAFOR Campeche
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    Arturo Balam Koyoc
    Director
    Balam-Kú and Balam-Kin Ecosystem Reserves
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    Jocelyn Duran
    Director of Biodiversity Conservation and Management
    Environment Ministry of Campeche
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    Miguel Arcos
    Major of Constitución
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    Andres Cruz Zamudio
    Rector
    Universidad Tecnológica de Calakmul
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    Dr. Mircea Hidalgo
    Wildlife Biologist
    Juárez Autonomous University of Tabasco

    Restoration Supervision Expert Board

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    Dr. Pilar Angelica Gómez-Ruiz
    Professor, Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán (CICY)
    Mexico
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    Dr. Rakan A. Zahawi
    Professor, University of Hawaii
    Director, Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos
    USA/Ecuador
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    Dr. Joachim Hamberger
    Professor, Technical University Munich
    Germany
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    Joachim Elsässer
    BDI Coordinator for Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile
    Germany/Mexico
    Continuous Research for Climate Justice
    Seedlings in the Research Nursery in Constitución, Campeche

    The Three Nurseries

    We run a nursery in José María Morelos, Q. Roo and work closely with an external partner nursery in Chuina, Campeche. In 2022 we built our own Research Nursery at our Restoration Research Park in Constitución, Campechewith a capacity of 200,000 seedlings. We built the Research Nursery to research the germination and growth procedures of rare species and run restoration ecology experiments.
    Yucatan Restoration and Conversation Sites

    Balam-Kú/Calakmul Biosphere Reserve Region

    • Las Américas 7 (7a, 7b, 7.1, 7.2)
      The western half (7b) of the site is mostly intact forest, with smaller patches of degradation. The eastern half is entirely deforested. During 2021 we mainly restored the forest in Las Américas 7a and partly 7.1. In 2022 we will focus on the deforested and degraded sites in 7a, 7.1 and 7.2.

    • Las Américas 5
      Our research site (90 ha) is located within the Balam-Kú Ecosystem Reserve. It is just one km from our office and is used for our large-scale field trials. In collaboration with Imperial College London and ETH Zurich we are doing research to optimize forest restoration techniques.
    • Las Américas 3 & 4
      Our two largest project sites are within the Calakmul and Balam-Kú reserves. They are the least degraded of all our project sites. All areas not severely degraded are conserved and allowed to naturally regenerate. Together with the government of Campeche we support the protection of these ecosystems. If sufficient degradation is discovered to merit an intensive restoration intervention, we will apply for a permit and potentially begin work in 2023.
    • Las Américas 1,2 & 6
      These sites experienced varying states of degradation. In the years 2015–2020, we reforested and implemented enrichment planting.
    • Las Américas 10
      This site, close to Las Américas 2, includes 48 deforested hectares. It is a flood prone site. This low thorny forest will be restored and protected starting in 2022 and 2023.
    • Las Américas 11
      Las Américas 11 has approximately 50 ha of deforested, former cattle pasture. The many limestone rocks and the thin soil in the first horizon makes the restoration of the lowland flooded forest or lowland thorny forest more difficult. Planting began here in 2022.
    Explore the sites
    Yucatan Restoration and Conversation Sites

    San Felipe Bacalar Natural Protected Area

    • San Felipe Bacalar A
      339 hectares of forest burned in 2019. However, many trees survived the blaze. We are conducting enrichment planting in 2021 to restore the lost species.
    • San Felipe Bacalar B
      Another devastating fire in 2020 affected this section (220 ha) of the Natural Protected Area. We will be conducting enrichment planting here in 2022.
    • San Felipe Bacalar C, D & E
      We will be converting what used to be an 87 ha coconut plantation back into a natural forest.
    Explore the sites
    INIFAP’s Restoration Report 2021

    The Las Americas sites are owned by Plant-for-the-Planet. The San Felipe Bacalar sites are owned by our partners, INIFAP. INIFAP is a federal agriculture and forestry research institution. We partnered to restore the San Felipe Bacalar Natural Protected Area. As part of this partnership, Plant-for-the-Planet is conducting the restoration and maintenance work of the trees for the first three years after planting, in close collaboration with INIFAP. INIFAP is then responsible for the long-term protection of the forests.

    We aim to plant 100 million trees in Mexico by 2030. That’s a very ambitious target. Not all of these trees are to be planted on the Yucatan Peninsula, but also in other efforts around the country. Of course, the sites of Plant-for-the-Planet and its partners are not big enough for all these trees. We are continuously looking for additional sites to continue our work.

    Yucatan Restoration and Conversation Sites
    Las Americas 7a before planting in 2021
    Yucatan Restoration and Conversation Sites
    Las Americas 7.1 just after planting in 2021

    In addition to our work on the Yucatán Peninsula, we also work with partners to restore the forest in central Mexico (see below). Depending on where they are needed most, tree-donations to Plant-for-the-Planet are allocated to one of these two projects.

    We are incredibly grateful for every donor and supporter allowing us to restore these ecosystems. Due to the delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and in order to focus on maximising the diversity of species planted and to do our best to restore these ecosystems as well as possible, we are not scaling up our operations as quickly as initially planned. Thus, we expect that trees donated today might not be planted until late 2023 or even the 2024 planting season.

    Download Transparency Report

    Restoration Incidents

    Managing environmental incidents, like flooding and fires fires are an important part of our work. In the interest of transparency, we are logging all such incidents.
    Restoration Incidents

    Survival Rates

    The survival rates of our planted seedlings vary substantially. Key factors affecting survival rates include the species planted as well as the site’s soil types and level of ecosystem degradation. We could alter species selection to increase survival rate but we choose to prioritise biodiversity over survival rates. When we expect lower survival rates due to poor soil quality or intense degradation, we increase the planting density to ensure that the forest can develop nonetheless.

    Another important factor is the amount of rain in the days preceding and following outplanting. We do have some influence here. We naturally do not plant at all during the dry season and pause planting during the wet season when precipitation drops. 

    The survival rates of 2021 were relatively low, since it was a particularly dry year (CONAGUA, 2022) and we planted a lot of our trees in very challenging conditions with poor soil quality and intense degradation. These latter conditions also apply for many of the sites we work on in 2022. 

    The first year survival rates for the trees planted in 2021 range from 9.13% to 78.56% at the site level. In Las Americas 7a – the site with the most challenging conditions – the average survival rate was 11.3% (measured range: 0.1% – 41.5%). In San Felipe de Bacalar the average survival rate was 36.4% (measured range: 9.2% – 78.56 %). 

    We continuously work on improving our restoration process to increase our survival rates. Some of our research efforts look at how different restoration methods may increase survival rates and growth rates. 

    But fundamentally, we plant trees not to grow trees, but to grow diverse, native forests. So the key long term metrics are not initial survival rates but plant, animal, bacterial and fungal diversity in our forests.

    Note: Las Americas 7a data is based on a complete census of all trees planted and the San Felipe de Bacalar data on a random 20% subsection.

    Tour of the Campus

    Project Partners
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    FAQ