Nature and Biodiversity

The 5 best ways to invest in responsible restoration and reforestation in the Amazon

The Colombian rainforest in the Amazon, where careful investment is rebuilding ecosystems.

The Colombian rainforest in the Amazon, where careful investment is rebuilding ecosystems. Image: Niels van Altena/Unsplash

Julio Andrés Rozo Grisales
Founder and Director, Amazonía Emprende-Escuela Bosque
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This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • Reforestation schemes in the Amazon and elsewhere result in a multitude of benefits.
  • Such efforts necessitate a responsible supply of native species seeds.
  • Smart investment in reforestation efforts ensures positive long-term impact.

Ecosystem restoration is becoming a global trend at last. In Colombia, the government aims to restore over 750,000 hectares by 2026, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 2 billion hectares should be restored by 2030. Furthermore, there are opportunities for the private sector within the framework of voluntary carbon and biodiversity markets, in the implementation of restoration and reforestation projects in different ecosystems, including the Amazon.

The question is: Are we certain that there is a responsible seed supply system of native species to meet the high demand for plant material? What needs to be done first and invested in before planting a tree?

Have you read?

The experience of Amazonía Emprende, gained over the past five years restoring natural habitat in the Colombian Amazon territory, suggests that five elements are crucial to ensuring a responsible supply of native species seeds:

1. Genetic content of seeds or seedlings

When identifying trees to serve as sources of seeds and/or seedlings, they must be healthy and represent broad genetic diversity. Currently, there is significant uncertainty in this regard. Important questions to determine the relevance of a species include: Are the seeds from diseased trees? Do the seeds come from one or a few trees, risking genetic diversity for future tree generations?

2. Protocols for utilization

Another aspect to consider is the existence of protocols for utilizing seeds and seedlings. If they exist: Are they followed and enforced? Protocols address issues like: How many seeds can be harvested and how many should be left for fauna or reproduction? How should seeds and seedlings be collected?

3. Benefits for local communities

This element ensures that local communities, who own the trees in their lands and territories, receive income from seed sales. Are there rules or safeguards that consider these benefits for the communities?

4. Broad ecosystem services

There must be knowledge and valuation of the ecosystem services that native species will generate, depending on the restoration area.

5. Monitoring

Established protocols for managing, conserving and propagating seeds and seedlings in nurseries should accompany the process.

Responsible supply is essential to ensure the greatest possible positive impacts. This will guarantee environmental, economic, social and institutional benefits.

Environmental benefits: Genetic diversity of trees will be maintained in ecosystems. Reproduction rates among native species individuals will be ensured.

Economic benefits: Local communities will generate income from managing their seeds and seedlings. The forest will be seen not as an obstacle but as a treasure. This allows for a sustainable and regenerative supply mechanism, avoiding losses and investment overruns due to the quality of planted material.

Social benefits: A type of knowledge that is still emerging and vital for large-scale ecosystem restoration in the coming years: New entrepreneurial and employment opportunities arise from planting schemes, especially among young people. This will prevent the exodus of talent from rural areas to cities.

Institutional benefits: Better tools will be available for making decisions on ecosystem restoration strategies and the use of biodiversity.

5 smart investments for planting in the Amazon

It is essential to organize things in such a way that tree planting today, instead of being an opportunity and advancement, doesn't become a headache tomorrow. Millions of dollars can be saved by making five types of smart investments before the simple act of planting a tree:

  • Manage the knowledge of those who know native species. These are typically older indigenous and smallholder farmer individuals.
  • Train young people to get motivated and involved in the world of native species. Identify seed sources in landscapes.
  • This requires community involvement and the use of technology.
  • Strengthen research and development on ecosystem services, analysis of seed trees, reproduction and propagation strategies for plant material, and measures for adaptation to climate change.
  • Design and implement innovative financial schemes that lead to the development of conservation agreements for seed trees.

How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?

In summary, there are two paths: The quick one without preparation to plant any tree, or the conscious and responsible one in the short term that scales positive impact in the long term – not only for carbon capture purposes, but also for conservation and restoration of biodiversity in the Amazon.

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