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The Connecticut College Carbon-Offset Forest in Costa Rica

Connecticut College sponsored a 37-acre forest to offset the CO2 emissions associated with the Crozier-Williams Student Center located on the college’s campus in New London, Connecticut.  The forest was planted by Reforest the Tropics in November 1999 in the Las Delicias Farm in Costa Rica.

Eight-year-old Klinkii trees in the Connecticut College Carbon-Offset Forest. Photo taken November 2007

The key to long-term carbon storage in tropical forests is working with farmers to create profitable forests that combine low-cost CO2 sequestration for US emitters of CO2 with wood production for farmer income.  Through forestry efforts such as the one sponsored by Connecticut College, Reforest The Tropics is developing and demonstrating a functioning model to offset developed country emissions in Costa Rica.

Connecticut College Carbon-Offset Forest; 7 yrs old at time the photo was taken in 2007. Today the tree is 13 years old and too large to encircle in a hug.

Connecticut College Carbon-Offset Forest; 7 yrs old at time the photo was taken in 2007. Today the tree is 13 years old and too large to encircle in a hug.

Many of Reforest the Tropics’ carbon-offset forests implement an innovative “layer cake” design-i.e., a stratified mixture of planted trees which combines fast growth, potential income, strong long-term carbon storage, and ancillary environmental benefits.  The Connecticut College Carbon-Offset Forest is one such forest.  The nine-year-old deglupta hybrid tree in the photo to the left is part of the A-layer (above the B- and C-layers) of the specially designed forest.

A nine-year-old deglupta hybrid tree in the Connecticut College Carbon-Offset Forest. Photo taken Feb. 4, 2009.

RTT developed the hybrid deglupta tree for its fast growth and other advantageous characteristics.   Tall, straight and widely spaced, the deglupta tree has a light crown that allows light to filter through to the B-layer that contains several species.  Not visible in this photo is the C-layer of Klinkii trees; the C-layer grows underneath the other trees to capture the remainder of the solar energy and increase total production in the forest.

A photograph of the Connecticut College Forest in February 2009 showing a diversity of tree species.

Shown below in this photo of the Connecticut College forest, notice how straight the trees are on this reforested pasture—a forester’s and farmer’s delight!  The large tree in the foreground is a native species, a Chancho tree.  To the far left is a Klinkii tree absorbing the sunlight that passes through the main canopy, part of the forest’s design.  Other smaller trees are awaiting their turn to grow as RTT opens the forest with frequent, light thinnings for farmer income.

By judiciously managing this forest, RTT expects to maintain it intact indefinitely, extracting logs for farmer income while sequestering CO2 for Connecticut College.

 

 

RTT forests are measured annually and the information graphed to guide our new management techniques.  The graph below is current though early 2019.  The dip at 15 years indicates trees thinnings for farmer income and forest health.  You can see the carbon capture was recovered in less than 3 years!  So far this early RTT forest has captured 18.2 MT CO2e/year/hectare.

CO2 Capture – Connecticut College 1999 Forest