There are several bio-diversity hotspots around the globe that can provide us the greatest leverage as we work to undo some of the damage we’ve done to the planet. Costa Rica, one of those hotspots, presents perhaps the greatest opportunity to sequester the most carbon and provide habitat to more species per acre than any other place on the planet, as we work to preserve one of the richest ecologies in the world.
Huge areas of once lush rainforest have been cleared in Costa Rica over the last hundred years. Much of that clear-cut has been for cattle grazing and farming. However, since being cleared, many parcels of that land are in poor shape or are not productive, so are available for recapture. These spaces are the land we are primarily targeting – land which is not rainforest and is prime for acquisition and returning to its more natural state.
Through a series of initiatives, fundraising and grants we plan to acquire strategic parcels of land which are well located and provide the best opportunity for reforestation to meet our goals.
Much of our other planned work and research is built on the foundation of land acquisition, so this is a primary focus area for PRFRP. We have a number of targeted properties, which would be available for sale, ranging in size from less than a hectare to hundreds of hectares.
Once the land has been acquired, we begin the work of reforestation. There is much more to doing this well than just letting the jungle take over the land (although it would certainly do that). With goals of optimizing endemic and general species habitat and maximizing carbon capture, while eliminating invasive species as much as possible, the reforestation process must be well managed.
Like many complex systems, ensuring the right foundation is in place allows the process to follow more naturally. We follow best practices tailored by 25 years of local experience to turn fields and rural sprawl into balanced second growth rainforest, which locks in tons of carbon while ensuring habitat for thousands of native plants, animals and insects.
By reclaiming even small areas of Costa Rican sprawl and pastureland, we will lock huge amounts of carbon in dense forests over rich soil, which in turn will support thousands of species of insects and animals. Following a regime of reforestation informed by both 25 years of experience and modern best practices, we will reclaim land that currently contains crumbling sprawl, clear-cut pastureland and farms of invasive species.
There is more to reclaiming land than removing old structures and plowing under invasive species. Most reforestation has one of three main drivers: Biodiversity, Climate Change, or to Minimize Costs. We are targeting the dual-criterion outcome of addressing both Biodiversity and Climate. These have been successfully optimized in the reforestation work in Sarapiqui over the past 25 years, and PRFRP’s work will build on that.
We leverage volunteers and untapped no-cost resources. We have the luxury of a ready supply of local native flora, nursery access, expert local ecologists, volunteers, and access to university expertise available to us in both Costa Rica and the US that allow us to “ignore” costs that most groups must address. That allows us to focus our resources on small-parcel land acquisition and optimizing the process whereby the local ecology reclaims what had been cow pastures and unplanned sprawl.
We focus on anchoring the land with a balanced mix of keystone species, endemics and those which help keep invasive exotics from returning. Unlike target areas for many tree-planting efforts, this land natively harbored dense forest and incredibly diverse species in local biomes. Huge trees will quickly grow, locking in carbon and providing a residence and food source for hundreds of native species which have been crowded out. In very short order, the local ecology – the jungle and its inhabitants – will take over, requiring only minimal long-term effort by our team of volunteers. That allows us to perform detailed research on the process and results, and move on to the next small parcel of land.
These small parcels, targeted and tended, have a major restorative impact on the local environment and lock in very high amounts of carbon per acre, positively impacting the entire planet. That’s what we call the ‘Butterfly Effect.’