One of the research goals of Reforest the Tropics is to develop forests with a 100+ year capacity for CO2 capture and storage. Research began in the 1960s by our staff who tested 99 tree species for farm forests. One of the more interesting species was Araucaria hunsteinii, or the “Klinkii Pine” from Papua New Guinea. This species has proven to be an ideal candidate for inclusion in mixed-species plantations. It is noninvasive, grows to tremendous sizes, produces high quality timber, shows promise as a shade tolerant species that can be planted beneath existing canopies, and it coexists well with other species in RTT mixtures. The tallest Klinkii ever formally measured was 273 feet in height and over 6 feet in diameter. This gives the tree a special potential, namely of being able to store CO2 in the form of wood in a live forest stand for a very long time.
Klinkii is now included in virtually all of RTT’s mixed-species designs. RTT’s approach is to develop and test mixed-species models, which reduce the risks of disease and pest attacks associated with traditional monocultures. They also enhance biodiversity, create habitat for a variety of fauna, and have been shown to be more productive than monocultures in their ability to fix CO2.
– Dr. Herster Barres, RTT Director of Research
A historical challenge with reforestation has been convincing
local landowners to participate. Since most degraded land is
held in private hands, programs must incentivize the owners of
that land to reforest. RTT has generated landowner interest by
working towards making forestry economically competitive
with other land-use options. RTT mixtures are configured to
capture large quantities of CO2, however, more importantly,
the forests are also designed to keep that CO2 stored away
for the long term by paying attention to local needs.
RTT has experimented with the inclusion of mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) in its mixtures
for decades. Although mahogany does not grow as fast as some other species in the RTT
matrix, it offers a unique advantage by adding to the overall sustainability of the program. The
presence of mahogany, a coveted species after centuries of exploitation, inherently increases
the value of the program to landowners. The increased value of the program is translated into
more attention and management by the landowners, which leads to a more sustainable program.
Mahogany is rarely incorporated into forest plantations due to its susceptibility to attack from
the shootborer (Hypsipyla grandella), a pest that damages the growth and form of the species.
Through trial and error, RTT developed a treatment protocol that protects the trees from attack
and allows for their inclusion as a complementary species to the other trees that excel at carbon
capture and storage. Our research continues…
Herster Barres, Director of Research
So what makes the RTT program really UNIQUE?
One of the biggest advantages to our program is that RTT is NOT a
typical forestry carbon offset project. Unlike other offset programs,
RTT generates NEW CARBON CAPTURES with newly planted forests,
not preservation of existing forests and not the sale of carbon
that has already been captured. Only with newly planted tropical
forests do we have a chance of absorbing pre-existing atmospheric
CO2 gas that will continue to heat up the Earth even if today we
stopped emitting all CO2 from all current sources.
RTT forests also offer a unique level of engagement for a participant.
RTT does not issue tradable carbon offsets that simply appear on a
donor’s balance sheet, rather they are born from individualized forests
and are directly accountable to a donor’s emissions. Unlike
some market offsets with questionable origins, the CO2 captured by
RTT forests is tangible and identifiable.
We will need to use all the tools in the toolbox…including wind, solar
and other green energy sources plus the elimination of fossil fuels by
late this century to enable us to live in a habitable planet. But in order
to avoid the most dreadful effects of climate change, we’ll need massive
reforestation of our tropical zones. This single initiative has
now become perhaps the most important instrument for our
On a scientific level, we are continually provided evidence to
the importance of our tropical forests for our very existence as
a human population on Earth.
So in the end, tropical reforestation is not just a bridge to mitigate
climate change until we eliminate fossil fuels….it’s also the
most powerful tool we have on Earth to help us survive in a
vast matrix of counterproductive human activity. Indeed, it’s a
powerful social mission in its own right.
Harry Hintlian, Board Chair,
Reforest The Tropics is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization. Donations
are tax deductible to the full extent
of the law.