Lullaby for a tree: why carbon sink regeneration projects need nurseries

Nurseries are like kindergarten for saplings. These safe environments for young trees to grow are important if we expect the carbon sink regeneration projects to be successful.

Nursery of CarbonABLE’s Las Delicias nature regeneration project, Panama.

The stages of rewilding a forest or a mangrove

Rewilding is much more than planting trees and counting up your carbon credits.

  • First there is raising the saplings from a seed in a sustainable tree nursery.
  • Then comes planting at the restoration site.
  • Next comes monitoring and upkeep of the young trees.
  • Finally, occasional trimming and care may also come into play: things like clearing debris and maintaining irrigation systems.

Nurseries play a larger role than you might think when it comes to restoring a carbon sink. CarbonABLE is committed to making sure our rewilded carbon sinks are efficient and sustainable. Financing projects that use quality nurseries gives the plants the highest chances of survival, and therefore the highest chance to capture loads of carbon from the atmosphere!

A safe place to grow

Plant nurseries offer the conditions for seeds to sprout and grow safely. Fifty years ago, planting straight rows of seedlings and keeping them irrigated was common practice, but they often did not survive many years after being transplanted¹.

What has changed since then? The scientific community’s understanding of best nursery practices. Some tree species may need to have protective covers in the early months. Others may need to be protected from the wind or from too much sun. It’s also important that the nursery is able to recreate the same hydrology conditions that the seedlings will experience in the wild. For example, in the case of mangroves which experience changing water levels throughout the year, a nursery needs to replicate these water cover conditions.

A CarbonABLE example

Consider the mangrove restoration project Las Delicias that CarbonABLE is financing. Young mangrove plants are grown in peace in a protected area.

Las Delicias nursery, Panama.

But if the project developers planted mangrove tree seeds directly in the patch of sand to be restored, many of those seeds would never become adult mangroves. Natural challenges like flooding, violent storm surge, or hungry animals who might eat the young sprouts would knock out a large number of the saplings. It would take a long time for a full mangrove forest to regenerate on this site.

Instead, most carbon sink reforestation and restoration projects use saplings that have been brought up in nurseries, including the Las Delicias project. Nurseries are usually in naturally protected locations, out of the bitter elements. This gives each sapling a higher chance of reaching maturity. When the saplings are old enough (depending on the tree species, this can be anywhere from 6 months to 3 years), they are transplanted to the restoration site, ready to resist the waves.

Grown-up Red mangroves of Las Delicias Carbonable’s project after their nursery time.

Social value and local knowledge

Nurseries also offer an opportunity to increase employment in the restoration site region. In the case of CarbonABLE’s Banegas forest restoration project, seedlings come from the nearby Rancho Quemado, a women-led nursery, collecting, growing and selling seeds and seedlings for their livelihoods.

Nursery of CarbonABLE Las Banegas rewilding project, Costa Rica.

Sourcing from local nurseries is a smart decision. The seedlings are well adapted to the local climate conditions — they come from not so far away.

Small details, big impact

It may seem like a small detail but the quality and knowledgeability of the plant nurseries in a carbon sink restoration project is very important to the success of the project. Conditions in these nurseries determine the resilience of the saplings in the future.

At CarbonABLE we want all the rewilding projects we support to produce healthy and resilient forests and wetlands. That’s why we look for projects that source seedlings from local and sustainable nurseries. Just one more piece of the foundation that is key in rewriting nature through DeFi!

Sources

(1)https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/mangrove-restoration-letting-mother-nature-do-work

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