As of Jan 2020, Tower School of Marblehead, MA has planted a total of 12 hectares (29.64 acres) of new farm forest on three different farms in Costa Rica. Tower School forests will capture and store at least 240 tons of carbon dioxide each year and will accumulate at least 6000 metric tons in the 25-year project periods.
2017 Tower School Forest
At the end of 2016, Reforest The Tropics partnered with CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) a post-graduate University located in Turrialba, Costa Rica known for tropical agriculture, natural resource management, and forestry studies. Reforest The Tropics and CATIE entered into a 25-year contract to manage a 75 hectare carbon-capturing reforestation project. The forest is expected to capture and store at least 1500 tons of carbon dioxide within 25 years. Three of the 75 hectares are dedicated for the Tower School Forest.
CATIE and RTT finished planting the land in October of 2017. The forest is originally planted with three species, however additional species will be added throughout the contract period and beyond. The three species currently planted include Araucaria hunsteinii (Klinkii Tree), Eucalyptus grandis (Eucalyptus), and Vochysia guatemalensis (Chancho). This forest design calls for native hardwoods to be planted around the edges of the plantation and various shade-tolerant tree species will be added following the thinning process. Ultimately, the forest will host 8-10 tree species. As you can see above, the new forest was planted over a field that had previously been used to cultivate sugar cane.
2018 Tower School Forest
In late 2018, Reforest The Tropics completed another project with the Belgravia Farm, located in La Suiza, a village on the outskirts of Turrialba. Originally, we had envisioned that this project would be again housed at CATIE, however the planting at Belgravia offers some unique advantages for the school. Namely, this three hectare project is planted heavily with native species and will provide considerably more biodiversity and habitat creation than our projects at CATIE.
The forest is planted with seven species: Araucaria hunsteinii (klinkii); Eucalyptus deglupta (deglupta); Hieronyma alchorneoides (pilon); Enterolobium cyclocarpum (guanacaste); Pinus oocarpa (Honduran Pine); Vochysia ferruginea (botarama); and Schizolobium parahyba (gallinazo). The majority of the forest (nearly 90%) is comprised of native species (pilon, botarama, gallinazo, pine and guanacaste) with the remaining portion planted with klinkii to ensure the plantation will capture and store sufficient carbon.
RTT Forester Victor Martinez stands next to a young botarrama in the Belgravia project. Behind the botarrama, you can see the small area of natural forest that sits in the middle of the project site.
Prior to the establishment of this forest, the land was used to cultivate a fruit called pejibaye, which grows on a small spiny palm tree. These four to five-foot palms are very difficult to work with, as the trunks are covered in razor like spines which both easily pierce skin and cause rashes for many who work on them. They are planted very closely together and provide very little habitat for local wildlife, acting more like a barbed wire barrier which keeps many animals away. The new forest will now host countless animal species.
2019 Tower School Forest
In December 2019, Reforest The Tropics and its partnering farm, Finca Apache, completed a 6 hectare (14.82 acres) project for the Tower School. The farm is located on the Atlantic slope of the central cordillera running north-south through Costa Rica. The altitude of the farm is approximately 2500 feet above sea level and is bisected by the only road between Turrialba and Siquirres – a highly visible location. The farm produces vegetables and has experimented with other activities in the past, but now mostly thrives through its popular restaurant due to its location on a major road.
The project will be planted with a mixture of three primary species and will be complemented by a number of native species including valuable hardwoods planted on the borders of the project site, as well as a diverse array of trees which replace those which perish during the first year. Traditionally, we experience about 10% mortality during the first year. The project will accumulate more biodiversity throughout the project period through natural regeneration, most typically through seeds introduced via bird droppings.
The three primary species of the project are:
Auracaria hunsteinii (Klinkii): This is the key species found in all RTT projects. Klinkiis grow to enormous sizes (up to 270 feet with a six-foot diameter) and may be the world’s most efficient carbon capturer. Klinkiis are an ancient species and are highly adaptable to different soil, altitude, and precipitation conditions.
Klinkii seedlings staged for planting
Pinus caribaea (Caribbean Pine): This species grows exceptionally well with klinkii, however can only be included in RTT mixtures at an altitude above 1500 feet. Fortunately, this project qualifies. Pines grow at a similar rate to klinkiis (relatively slow start with a growth spurt at about 10 years) which avoids competitive challenges we experience when mixing klinkiis with other species.
Eucalyptus saligna (Saligna): This species grows at an almost unbelievable rate (up to 15 feet per year). Although this growth rate is not uncommon among certain tropical tree species, the saligna offers some distinct advantages. First, it has a very light crown, which allows light to pass through to the developing klinkiis and pines below. A light crown in uncommon to fast growing tropical species. Also, unlike other fast-growing species, salignas produce a lumber with a market. Most fast growing trees are soft woods and cannot be sold. We rely on this species to generate income in the early years of the project. Salignas may be thinned for farmer income as early as 5-6 years old.
The owner of the Apache farm, Don Jorge, supervises the workers who are preparing to plant a row of pine trees.