Forest Plantations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua: Performance of Species and Preferences of Farmers

Forest Plantations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua: Performance of Species and Preferences of Farmers


This paper presents data on the survival and growth of mixed native and exotic forest plantations established on abandoned pastures in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The article also includes information on farmer species preference and socioeconomic information.

Research Goals & Methods

In Costa Rica, 123 smallholders in Heredia, an area with humid climate, established plantations between 1990 and 1995. A total of 17 different species was planted in pure blocks, with the different pure blocks forming a mixed species mosaic. In Nicaragua, 202 smallholders in Rio Grande of Carazo, an area with dry climate, established plantations between 1997 and 1998. A total of 22 different species was planted in mixed and pure blocks, with some species serving as timber and some as fuelwood source. From each group, 35% of the participating farmers were selected for interviews and measurements taken in their plantations. Silvicultural measurements include DBH and total height. Bole form and health of the trees was visually estimated. Site factors (slope, aspect, spacing) were recorded.

Conclusions & Takeaways

In Costa Rica, most of the species used showed good potential for rapid growth and good bole form. Hieronyma alchorneoides and Tectona grandis were the only species with poor bole form. In Nicaragua, the species that experienced the most problems was Bombacopsis quinata. The most productive species were Tectona grandis and Swietenia macrophylla, in mixed plots, Pachira guachapele, Caesalpinia eriostachys, Samanea saman and Cedrela odorata showed good growth rates. Some species (C. odorata and S. macrophylla) showed a high percentage of bifurcated trees which the authors attribute to insect attack and poor silvicultural management. The majority of farmers in both countries was willing to continue reforesting, if government or non-government institutions provided continued economic incentives, since farmers do not have the resources to establish plantations. Another challenge is bridging the lack of income until financial benefits are obtained from the plantation.




Piotto D, Montagnini F, Kanninen M, Ugalde L, Viquez E. Forest Plantations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Journal of Sustainable Forestry. 2004;18:59–77. doi:10.1300/j091v18n04_04.


  • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)