Project lists

Enrichment of Pine Plantations in Sri Lanka with native species
02 Sep 2021     

Enrichment of Pine Plantations of Sri Lanka with native species

Project title:  Enrichment of Pine Plantations of Sri Lanka with native species [project ID: 2018P6-SRL]

Supervisory agency:  Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, Sri Lanka

Executing agency:  Forest Department, Sri Lanka

Budget in USD (total / APFNet grant):  596,800/477, 300

Kick-off date & duration: November 2018, 11/2018-11/2021

Target area(s): Sri Lanka



To enrich 350 ha of pine plantations in intermediate zone of Sri Lanka with multiple species to obtain multi-functional benefits. 


Expected outputs:


· 350 ha monoculture pine plantations converted into multi species forests

· NTFP composition of above 350 ha of forests improved

· 500 families permitted to collect NTFPs.

· Community based ecotourism programme established



APFNet: Ms Sun Weina ( )



Sri Lanka is an economy known for its tropical wet evergreen forests and a variety of montane forests. The average annual precipitation lies anywhere between 2500 mm in the wet zones and 1250mm in the arid zones of the economy, dry months can be up to 7 months of the year. Historically large parts of these forests have been converted for agricultural use. Due to deforestation and the partial aridity, deforested areas, even when abandoned, often did not revert to natural forests but stayed in a successional stage consisting of grasslands and fern thickets.


Earlier reforestation attempts using native vegetation have failed, however, as the prevalence of fire and the degraded soil conditions have made it impossible for the shade-adapted and fire-intolerant native species to survive.


Acknowledging that the native forests cannot be brought back instantly with the local species at hand, the Sri Lanka Forest Department started, amongst others, using the exotic pine tree species Pinus caribaea from Northern Central America to reforest the degraded grasslands. These exotics were incredibly successful as opposed to the native vegetation. These early successional trees originated from a historically fire-dominated ecosystem and were therefore adapted to fire, greater light conditions and degraded soil. This way over 16,000 ha of exotic pine plantations were established.  From a timber perspective these trees provided great economic value, but were lacking in other areas like biodiversity and their ability to exclude fire. Now, with the support from APFNet and as a crucial next step, 350 ha of these plantations that ensured there is a forest cover at all, will now slowly be converted into multi-species and multi-functional forests closer to their original natural composition.


Creating multi-species forests to get multiple benefits

In Sri Lanka, approximately a quarter of the pine plantations are located in watershed areas and with steep slopes, and are thus vulnerable to the impacts of soil erosion and forest fires. This project selected three representative locations —Badulla, Nuwara Eliya, and Matale—to implement strategies for a successful conversion of mono-cultures into multi-species forests.


However, as described earlier, successfully re-introducing native species in currently fire-dominated landscapes can prove to be difficult, if those species are not adapted to such a regime. Furthermore, the current environmental conditions in the plantations may further inhibit restoration.


Thus, two key measures have to be adopted: An integrated approach to prevent the outbreak of fires in the plantations and a change in forest structure that will accommodate natural fire-exclusion and a re-introduction of native species.


Fighting fire with Attention & Awareness

The project aims to comprehensively ensure that no more man-made forest fires will break out. This includes the establishment of fire lines to prevent fires from jumping and constraining them to a smaller area. However, even more importantly it relies on creating awareness amongst locals about the harm forest fires can cause as currently forest fires are largely human-caused, and establishing firefighting groups that can prevent and detect fires from very early on. During the project duration, such “vigilant groups”, consisting of forest officers, other government officers and community members will be formed.


Of course, once a fire is detected it needs to be extinguished, an extremely dangerous task that requires specialized forces. Thus, designated firefighting groups will be established, trained and equipped appropriately.


Changing up the forest structure to promote forest conversion

But even if the pine plantations are fire free of human-caused fires, they are currently too dense and species-poor and often lack the seed-source of late-successional, poorly dispersed native species.


Thus, the canopy needs to be opened up to promote natural regeneration. This can turn out to be trickier than initially expected as different light levels may be needed for different species. Using a combined approach in different areas, between 30% and 50% of the canopy will be removed through different harvesting and thinning styles. On one part of the project area strip felling with different strip-widths (10-20m) will be tested, while in other areas that already facilitate a degree of natural regeneration, selective cutting of trees will be applied.


In the strip areas, additionally a mix of pioneer species, late successional species, but also fire resilient and fruit bearing species will be planted, specifically about 600-800 seedlings/ha. This is not only to give the forest regeneration a jump start, but also to ensure that the future forest will be more resilient and present multiple benefits, such as the provision of NTFPs, to the community.




Project Document.pdf