Climate change is happening, and it’s happening fast. In a race to tackle sky-rocketing CO2 emissions the non-profit organisation Conservation International is setting up the biggest tropical reforestation initiative ever seen, with plans to plant an awesome 73 million trees in Brazil over a 6 year period. If deforestation stopped altogether, the world’s forests could absorb as much as 37% of our annual carbon emissions all on their own. That’s unlikely, but this project takes a considerable step in the right direction.
The region in question is called the ‘arc of deforestation’, a massive area extending to 70,000 acres that has been cleared for pasture. The intention is to return it to lush rainforest. It’s vital since some scientists predict 20% more of the Amazon rainforest might be deforested over the next two decades despite the fact that doing so will push climate change along even further. And tropical trees are our best bet. As the CEO of Conservation International, M. Sanjayan, says, “it’s not just the trees that matter, but what kind of trees. If you’re really thinking about getting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, then tropical forests are the ones that end up mattering the most.”
To maximise the impact of the reforestation project, Conservation International has pinned down a new, very efficient planting technique called muvuca, where literally hundreds of native tree seeds from multiple species are planted, covering every inch of deforested land. The seeds will come from the Xingu Seed Network, a native seed supplier for a host of conservation organisations. They have a dedicated network of over 400 seed collectors, usually indigenous women and youths.
Once the seeds grow, nature decides which of the new plants survives. It looks like an impressive 90% of native plants germinated survive using this method, which is also cheaper and less labour-intensive than the traditional way of planting actual saplings. A density of about 160 plants per hectare isn’t unusual for traditional reforestation methods compared to 2,500 species per hectare for the new method, and a decade later we could easily see 5,000 new trees per hectare.