At CO2 Tropical Trees it seems like there is always something new and exciting happening. Since we are not in the newspaper business, the next best thing is to pick some annual highlights and post them here. Our Reserva Natural La Pedregoza issued its first ever Press Release this year, which made front page news across Canada and us proud. Our Partners page usually has new items and this page has some plantation news.
Fast growing tree species are important for the success of carbon sequestration. While all tropical trees are very good at capturing CO2 from the atmosphere, it is obviously better, given climate change concerns, if a tropical tree can sequester that CO2 in just 10 years, instead of the normal 30 years other tropical trees require. Two promising species are Gmelina arborea, commonly known as Melina, and Azadirachta indica, best known as Neem. Both offer fast growth and therefore quicker carbon sequestration in their woody biomass. Another tree that is promising is Jatropha curcas, not because of its woody biomass, but because it continuously produces fruit and oil seeds and organic mash starting nine months after planting. Jatropha curcas, or Piñon, is a viable biodiesel tree, producing 1.6 metric tons of oil per hectare per year, and 3.2 metric tons of mash per hectare per year that provides an organic compost rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. At CO2 Tropical Trees we started planting all 3 of these fast growing species in 2011. The goal is to be energy self-sufficient by the end of 2012, while maximizing our carbon offsets.
The Omacha Foundation was our first partner and instrumental in helping us set up our natural reserve. Since then we have continued to work together on climate change issues, conservation and preservation of Orinoco River basin flora and fauna, endangered native tree seed collection, and maybe most importantly on programs for the preservation of the large Podocnemis river turtles. These magnificent creatures were once common to the Orinoco, Meta and Rio el Bita rivers, but due to illegal turtle egg poaching, hunting and habitat destruction Podocnemis river turtles are now on the IUCN's Red List of endangered species, and are listed as endangered under the CITES appendices. You can download a copy of our Turtle Rescue document here. The Omacha Foundation is world-renowned, has produced dozens of publications, and is a vital link in Colombia's efforts to preserve the country's amazing biodiversity, estimated to represent 8% of the planet's total terrestial biodiversity. CO2 Tropical Trees is looking forward to many more years of dedicated cooperation with the Omacha Foundation.
Native Tree Seed Collection has become a passion for us at CO2 Tropical Trees. Our Reserva Natural La Pedregoza has a dedicated native tree seed collection program. This is important, because many exotic native tree species have suffered from reckless logging in the past, making them endangered tropical trees. A good example is the Sassafras tree (Ocotea cymbarum), which was nearly exterminated to make root beer in the 19th century. It was logged for its gorgeous aromatic wood and safrole oil. At CO2 Tropical Trees we believe that the best way to fight continued illegal logging of species like Sassafras is to start commerciliazing the species as a plantation tree, because that way it will reduce the pressure on the species from illegal cutting in natural forests. Our long term goal is to become a seed bank for these species. Seed collection in the wild is not always easy. We have to compete with macaws and parrots, who like the seeds. We have to climb trees in difficult circumstances and deal with the trees natural idiosyncracies, such as the seeds maturing at the height of the inundation season. That means that many seeds drop into flood waters and wash away.
Soil preparation is one of the secrets of successful plantations. Most tropical trees, with some noted exceptions like Acacia mangium, like to set deep roots quickly. This has two advantages, access to ground water in well-drained tropical soils and resistance to high winds. Since many tropical soils have been compacted over millenia by torrential rains, breaking and loosening the top layer of soil allows the trees to penetrate the soil quickly, in turn resulting in better and faster growth. At CO2 Tropical Trees this is accomplished by using tractors larger than 110 HP breaking the ground with single or triple bladed ploughs, depending on the species, for a depth of 75 cm or 30 inches. The difference is visible when compared to shallow, hand dug tree planting often practiced by subsistence farmers, as their trees grow significantly slower than do deep ploughed trees. A good example of a species that appreciates deep ploughing is Pinus caribaea or Caribbean Pine. We plant the seedlings when they are only 8 to 10 cm (3 inches) tall, as any bigger and the roots inside the planting bags may turn upward, slowing growth or even killing the seedling. Our way this species of pine quickly sets deep roots, ensuring healthy trees. Below are our recent annual planting reports with Amazonia Reforestation for download and viewing: