What we want to do
We want to make an existing reserve of Champaquí cloud forests financially self-sustainable and to develop a research and monitoring program that will scientifically measure the results of the multi-year reforestation effort to increase biodiversity, soil retention and water conservation. This information will help guide efforts in times of rapid climate change. Also our Environmental Education workshops run throughout the year at rural schools will help the new generations to bring forward our aims.
The approx. one thousand-hectare reserve on the west side from of Champaqui Mountain Summit, area of the “Milking the Clouds” Project, was bought years ago with private donations by Treeangle Foundation (UK) and the Foundation of Biospheric Activities (Argentina). Then our Centre for Ecological Restoration and Environmental Education (CREEA) is being set up at the entrance of the rural village below (Los Molles – Villa de Las Rosas), to serve as project headquarters and the main portal to the mountain for visitors and local activities.
The “Milking the Clouds” Project protects and restore the water sources and forest ecosystems of Champaqui by re-planting the main native trees. These cloud forests intercept rain and fog, drawing a surprising amount of water into springs and streams carrying it to rivers below. This water is essential in the semiarid valley of Traslasierra (meaning “Beyond the Mountains”). By counteracting the loss of soil and biodiversity, while training reforestation volunteers and environmental rangers, conducting environmental education at local schools and training students to grow seedlings used to restore the cloud forest, “Milking the Clouds” is pioneering a new model for synergize with nature.
A team of neighbors and volunteers now maintains a seed bank of the main native tree species used for reforestation, grows these seeds into seedlings in community greenhouses, coordinates firefighting activities, organizes ecological restoration workshops and educational walkabouts, fences new restoration areas, repairs trails and existing fences, regenerates dried springs, and expands and connects the fragmented forest by planting more trees at strategic sites.
As we protect and restore the high forests, we preserve and increase water resources for rural villages and towns, indirectly boosting local agricultural production while conserving the habitat of highly endangered species, many of which are endemic. One main goal is to save the ethnobotanical legacy of these native forests from the continued advance of farming and mining zones. With only a small fraction of ancient forests left (less than 3% of what was there 100 years ago), we cannot stress the urgency enough.
Where we are
Champaquí Mountain is at the heart of Argentina. Our thousand-hectare project is the south border of an enormous provincial reserve for hydric resources, being a mosaic of 3 different ecosystems. It contains the oldest forests of the Province and provides water to millions of people in the Valleys. The wetlands and springs are urgently in need of restoration to be better able to survive the 7-to-8 months-long dry season every year. These high mountain forests are biodiversity hotspots and are home to the endangered emblematic Condor (Vultur gryphus) and puma (Puma concolor), between other key & endemic species.
Our Nature Reserve is home to breeding Condors, the largest birds on earth, which almost triplicated their population from when we started preserving the nesting areas.
Two rare endemic species of Champaquí are the Achala’s Four-eyed Frog (Pleurodema kriegi) & the Achala’s Lizard (Pristactylus achalensis).
Why support our project
This is an opportunity of becoming part of a project that really works and does what needs to be done with integrity and efficiency from more than 10 years without pause.
In the midst of what may be the largest extinction event in the history of earth, climatic instability and political unrest, this project represents hope for bringing back biodiversity & water to a semi-arid valley, scarred through years of slash and burn land use practices just for low quality cattle. The children seed the future by tending seedlings, the community takes responsibility for firefighting, visitor management, land use, as well as planting trees and restoring springs with our coordination. The research indicates eleven years of work here already increased millions of liters of water from the clouds monthly, enriching the ecosystems, creating habitat for wildlife.
Cloud forests are among the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. Research is urgently needed to understand how they work to better conserve them. An observatory with tools that can be used by allied scientists will maximize the investment & impact, becoming a replicable model. Lessons learned in this context will be valuable to other local and international initiatives to restore mountain forests.