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Biodiversity Corridors by Plant Your Tree

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Pitch

Consumers to help global biodiversity through conscious altruistic consumption choices.


Description

Summary

Plant Your Tree was created to prove that there is a market solution to the ecological problem. This ensures sustainable, verifiable, pragmatic environmental conservation and restoration.

We have participated in a number of ecological reforestation projects, always aiming at increasing habitat connectivity. In the Iguazu region of Brazil, we have contributed significantly to the Santa Maria Biodiversity Corridor, and have also helped increase forest reserves in the region.

By adapting plant species, timing and methodology, this concept can be replicated anywhere in the world where wildlife suffers from reduced habitat and isolation.

Building on the successful ‘one for one’ marketing strategy, we developed a ‘one for all’ concept where the purchase of a product causes global positive externalities. We implemented a simple yet novel idea: one product = one tree planted in a biodiversity corridor. This concept can and should be adopted by other organizations with similar aims.

The concept of biodiversity corridors is very broad. In our case we take them to mean stretches of forests that unite isolated fragments of forests. This connection can be made over land or make use of riparian forests along river banks.

By establishing biodiversity corridors consumers are restoring animals’ ability to move between forests. This brings about massive improvements in their genetics by allowing them to mate with otherwise isolated individuals, strengthening their gene pool. These corridors increase the propagation of flora through increased movement of fauna. 

What we are calling for is a shift in consumer behaviour, wherein they decide to choose not only on the basis of price and quality, but also on the environmental benefit brought about by his purchase decision.


What actions do you propose?

                                         Plant Your Tree!

It is important to stress that this is not a proposal to promote Plant Your Tree, rather a proposal to replicate what Plant Your Tree is doing in Brazil to other countries and regions, thusly increasing the amount of active biodiversity restoration projects, increasing the amount of trees planted, increasing global benefit.

The first step is a behaviour shift by the consumer. When given the choice between two products, he/she should chose the product that carries with it the most positive externalities. Once that is achieved, the consumer will indirectly pay for ecological services.

Consumer products manufacturers and service providers partner up with Plant Your Tree or other similar diligent organization, where by a real tree is associated with each product. The manufacturers that should be targeted initially are those whose products have a significant ecological foot print. The range of industries is wide- from auditors and lawyers who use thousands of pages of papers a day, through consultants who jet around the world on business to the latest gadgets, toys and clothing made from non renewable polluting resources. These companies can be encouraged to take part in the project by marketting its participation as a differential when compared with competitors, and to strengthen their image as a conscious entity concerned for the natural world. The nature of the project is such that it can easily be merged with any company`s CSR policies or marketing initiatives.

For every product or service you buy, your tree is planted.

The products are identified as ‘tree planters’ by way of a stamp or tag carrying the product brand, the Plant Your Tree (or similar) brand, and a unique “tree code” which directly associates the product with an especially planted tree. We also offer real world activities for both customers and sponsors, allowing them to come help during plantation, visit our forests, team building activities, etc, in a effort to help connect people to nature. The more connected people are to nature, the more awareness this will bring to the project and the more projects of a similar nature will be started, feeding the virtuous cycle of natural regeneration!

There will be a small increase in the price of the product, to pay for plantation and care of the seedlings. There are many ways this additional cost can be dealt with/ companies can pass through the cost directly to the customer (whereby the customer pays wholly for his tree); the cost of the tree can be split between the manufacturer and the consumer; or the manufacturer can choose to further polish his sustainable image by paying for the tree plantation himself, this could potentially even be linked to their corporate social responsibility projects or part funded by their marketing budget.

Interaction between customers will be done through a free mobile web based application, he/she would have to register the product’s ‘tree code’ to effectively plant a tree. We have experimented with this type of application on social networks in the past and had success, although we had to stop due to funding constraints. Online from 2009 to 2011, Plant Your Tree’s application had several thousand users, an expressive number considering no paid advertising was contracted.

We envisage an application showcasing a virtual ecosystem where each customer and each partner brand has their own ‘virtual forest’. Each ‘tree code’ that is registered results in a ‘virtual tree’ appearing on both the customers and the brand’s ‘virtual forest’. This virtual ecosystem will be developed to resemble the real world. In such a way, there would be native animals moving from one virtual forest to another, occasionally planting trees as they would in nature. The application will be extremely informative, displaying information, videos and images about the plant and animal species, serving as an interactive encyclopaedia teaching about the natural world. To enhance the simulation and real world awareness we will include a number of scenarios, where for example an illegal logger appears  in your virtual forest offering to sell you hardwoods, a poacher could appear selling exotic animals, or an invading foreign species can enter and negatively affect it's growth - these would teach respectively that items sourced from non-certified forests should be avoided, exotic animals should never be purchased and that foreign species should never be introduced into other eco-systems.

If there is acceptance on the part of the consumer, companies may use part of their marketing funds for actual wide-spread reforestation, incorporating it into their Corporate Social Responsibility plans. By using marketing funds to subsidise the positive ecological benefit of their product, custormers and manufaturers can share the bill for the ecological benefit, allowing such actions herein proposed to occur without a significant increase in final price.

The establishment of biodiversity corridors helps kickstart natures own regenerative capacity, and speeds up the natural virtuous cycle of carbon sequestration (especially in tropical zones). Unlike several other methods of forest based carbon sequestration (some of which use monoculture of fast growing species such as eucalyptus and pinus), this method allows for the reestablishment of ecosystem’s native flora and fauna, generating positive externalities beyond those of carbon sequestration.

When a native forest is planted, it requires atmospheric carbon in order to grow. As it grows, plants bud and fruit. Animals eat this fruit and excrete it elsewhere, and a seedling may grow from its’ seeded droppings, which will, in turn, attract more animals, dispersing more plants, and so forth. One often overlooked fact is that such seed dispersion ensures genetic strengthening of the actual plant species as it increases the genetic pool potential when it pollinates.

Tropical forests naturally get a 'carbon sequestration boost'. They become 'host' to parasitic plants, including bromeliads, lianas and orchids. The growth of these increases the amount of carbon taken in by the forest. 

Trees also help retain and release water (evapotranspiration), help resist landslides (soil erosion) and can help reduce water pollution. Their root systems help hold soil together, stabilising the ground around them, and the above ground biomass gets in the way and traps litter that would otherwise flow into water courses. 

Through the education and sensibilization of consumers, an altruistic purchase decision can be made. The funds raised by the preference to such products will be reverted to the creation of biodiversity corridors. This can and should be done everywhere in the world by local biodiversity organizations working with local brands and products catering to the local populations.

To popularize the concept in a global scale, it would be ideal if a global brand decides to support the project. With the exposure brought about by working with these global brands, the idea would seed the world, and sure enough other manufacturers will adopt the trend, and that will help spread the word!


Who will take these actions?

Consumers and the public in general. The purchase of a product or service is usually a choice of the final consumer. This proposal involves a shift in consumer choice to products that carry with it associated ecological services.

If such a shift in consumer decision making occurs globally, projects like Plant Your Tree will be developed the world over. By adapting tree species and local stakeholder strategies, biodiversity conscious afforestation projects can be replicated anywhere in the world, ideally with consumers from a region funding biodiversity projects in that region.

The loss of biodiversity is not a localized problem - it is a global problem, on land, on sea, on river and on ice. It needs to be tackled on many fronts, and this can only be done through free market forces, by consumer choice.


Where will these actions be taken?

These actions can be taken wherever there is the problem of a fragmented forestry landscape and deforested river banks, frequently found in agricultural areas. Priority should be given to more biodiverse locations, which are usually the ones that suffer the most from deforestation and climate change. 

At the moment it is being done in the Foz do Iguacu region in Brazil, but could be performed globally in other countries by adapting the tree species, plantation methods and schedules.

California is a very good candidate as it suffers heavily from yearly forest fires which destroy vast tracts of forested areas.


How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

According to a recent UNFCCC CDM-AR-PDD submitted by a Brazilian company operating with native forests in the Mata Atlantica biome, approximately 339 tonnes of CO2e is removed per hectare of planted forest in a 30 year project period. However these are very conservative estimates as they ignore the biomass of other species the forest sustains.

As consumer behaviours change and they prefer ecologically friendly (or damage offsetting) products, the project can then be applied in more places the world over - more trees, more habitat connectivity, more animals, more trees, etc - a virtuous cycle strengthening the natural world!

 


What are other key benefits?

- A healthy ecosystem, reduced erosion and cleaner water allow for more efficient agriculture and increased quality of life. Implementation of other beneficial programmes such as apiculture or pisciculture can increase a family’s income as well as improving forest growth and dispersion. Not to mention the boost in ecological education in the region; we have found that locals feel very proud to host this type of project and so work hard to preserve it.

- Potential creation of ecological tourism and research centres. Our current projects attract researchers from across the globe. We have been getting increasing requests from tourists and policy makers to visit our sites.

- Added effects of fostering biodiversity.

- Kickstarting the natural regeneration cycle, wherein more animals are attracted by plants and more seeds are dispersed which in turn attracts more animals.

- The proof of concept that there is a capitalistic market for biodiversity restoration.


What are the proposal’s costs?

This depends greatly - the main driver of cost is the total area to be planted. Massive economies of scale mean that the cost of reforesting 1 Ha is practically the same as reforesting 10.

For Southern Brazil it is conservative to say that US$ 5,00 will pay to plant a tree (in this region there are typically 1500 trees per Ha). But this cost varies with location. 

A certain number of products need to be sold before we plant. Typically we use the number of 1,500 as this represents an average of trees in a hectare, our minimum requirement for mobilization. For optimal results in this part of the world, trees are planted in the November - February, and June - August time windows. A number of trees equivalent to product sales is then planted - if less than 1,500 products are sold, we either pool sales together and plant, or hold off on plantation until the next window.


Time line

We have been implementing and contributing to biodiversity corridor afforestation projects for over a decade, and have worked with fundraising through a collection of donations. However, we found that it is very difficult to obtain ongoing funding at the level needed to make a significant difference. In our experience, the ‘charity’ solution - for all it’s benefits - is not as efficient as a market based approach. In our view, we are not requesting for a donation to plant your tree; we are selling your tree bundled with a product. 

That said, we are also looking into using crowd-funding technologies and websites to finance reforestation of specific drainage basins and for the establishment of biodiversity corridors, though at the moment we see this more as a way of marketing the project than anything else. 

In the past 10 years we have participated in the successful implementation of the Santa Maria Biodiversity Corridor in partnership with several stakeholders in the Foz do Iguaçu region. 

 

Please see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FxLB8iiS2Y

Please see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxK-A7Bvj4Q

 

More recently, using the ‘one for all’ marketing approach, we reforested a 2 Ha area. We are currently mobilised and active in the region and can ramp up productivity dramatically in a very short period of time.  This effectively means that projects could start as early as November 2014 and reach peak activity by mid 2015 and be sustained for the mid term future.

Once the forest is planted, it needs tending for the subsequent two years, at which point it can be left to grow undisturbed.

In the fifth year following plantation most trees are well over 2m tall.

In the tenth year following plantation (the second video posted above), the area is a fully formed forest!


Related proposals


References

  • CLEAN DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM PROJECT DESIGN DOCUMENT FORM FOR AFFORESTATION AND REFORESTATIONPROJECT ACTIVITIES (CDM-AR-PDD) 

AES Tietê Afforestation/Reforestation Project in the State of São Paulo, Brazil 

  • ENDEMIC AND THREATENED TETRAPODS IN THE RESTINGAS OF THE BIODIVERSITY CORRIDORS OF SERRA DO MAR AND OF THE CENTRAL DA MATA ATLÂNTICA IN EASTERN BRAZIL

ROCHA, C. F. D., VAN SLUYS, M., BERGALLO, H. G. and ALVES, M. A. S. 

  • REVIEW OF EXPERIENCE WITH ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS, CORRIDORS AND BUFFER ZONES 

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 

  • Recovery of Atlantic Rainforest areas altered by distinct land-use histories in northeastern Brazil

Larissa Rocha-Santos, and Daniela C. Talora

  • Habitat Fragmentation and Ecological Networks in Europe 

Jörg E. Tillmann 

  • Landscape connectivity promotes plant biodiversity spillover into non-target habitats

Lars A. Brudviga, Ellen I. Damschena, Joshua J. Tewksburyb, Nick M. Haddadc, and Douglas J. Leveyd 

  • Riparian corridors enhance movement of a forest specialist bird in fragmented tropical forest

Cameron S. Gillies and Colleen Cassady St. Clair 

  • ECOLOGY OF GREENWAYS 

Smith, Daniel S., and Paul Cawood Hellmund 

  • Ecological Principles for the Design of Wildlife Corridors

David B. Lindenmayer, Henry A. Nix

  • Impacts of forest fragmentation on species composition and forest structure in the temperate landscape of southern Chile

Cristian Echeverría, Adrian C. Newton, Antonio Lara, José María Rey Benayas and David A. Coomes