Almost half of all global forests are under deforestation and forest degradation threats. The consequences of these threats endanger both humans and non-human organisms. This is because of the negative impacts on biodiversity, the supply of natural resources and the climate. Overall, these threaten the survival of living organisms, including those that depend on the forest’s natural resources on a daily basis. Currently, environmental groups are working on reforestation initiatives to limit these risks and boost climate resilience. One such example is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its collaboration with Hewlett-Packard (HP). Together, these organizations have collaborated to plant juçara palm trees in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil.
The juçara tree is a type of “Mother Tree.” In forests, Mother Trees are species of trees that play a caregiver role in the establishment and long-term growth of the ecosystem. Mother Trees are highly adaptable to natural challenges and are often resilient to harm caused by pests and disease. They also produce numerous high-quality seeds that grow into plants that can survive tougher conditions. Since they grow rapidly, tall and sturdy, the Mother Trees often establish a resilient forest canopy. Consequently, this protects other living organisms in the ecosystem from harsh climatic conditions such as the blazing sun and heavy rains.
The current state of the Atlantic Forest
The Atlantic Forest extends along the Atlantic coastline of Northeastern Brazil. It even stretches inland towards northeastern Argentina and eastern Paraguay. Because of the incredible range of ecosystems within it, it features various species of plants, animals, insects and microorganisms. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most biodiverse biomes in the world!
Unfortunately, due to much deforestation for agriculture, urban development and logging, only 12% of the original forest remains. In fact, before it was invaded by Portuguese colonists nearly 500 years ago, the Atlantic Forest is believed to have been the second-largest rainforest in the world — only surpassed by the Amazon.
Because of the increasing threats that the forest faces, it is currently considered one of the most endangered biomes on the planet. Saving this ecosystem is crucial, as it is home to several endemic wildlife species such as jaguars, toucans and sloths. It also is home to over 150 million people, which amounts to one-third of South America’s population.
Additionally, the Atlantic Forest’s natural resources are also vital to sustaining life for the millions of people and non-human species that live in the region. The forest provides clean air, healthy soil and helps regulate the climate. It also provides sustenance to living organisms through medicine, food and water. In fact, the Paraná River that runs through the forest is a critical water source for 60% of Brazil’s population. The river also produces over 60% of the hydroelectric power for Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
WWF and HP’s collaboration to save the Atlantic Forest
One of the reasons why WWF and HP partnered together was to help HP achieve its zero-deforestation paper-sourcing targets. This collaboration began in late 2019 and began with the organizations utilizing nature-based solutions to restore 1,340 acres (550 hectares) of endangered forests in Brazil. They also used these strategies in China to enhance the management of 220,000 acres (89,000 hectares) of forest land.
In 2021, WWF and HP worked to expand their partnership through further goals. In April 2021, HP committed to counteract all potential deforestation and land degradation for all of its paper products. Later on in October, the organizations chose to address the impacts on forests from printing with HP printers. Since then, HP and WWF have been protecting and managing almost one million acres of forest landscape. This area is about five times the size of New York City!
As a result of centuries of deforestation and over-harvesting of palm hearts in Brazil, Juçara palms are becoming more scarce in the forest. Since the Juçara tree is a type of Mother Tree, the WWF and HP have been working with local partners, such as REGUA, to replant Juçaras in an extensive forest landscape restoration project. This is an effort to ensure the long-term stability of the Atlantic Forest and allow the biome and the living organisms in it to thrive.
One of the components of the forest landscape restoration effort is developing a data bank of the forest’s Mother Trees. This monitors the trees’ progress based on their locations. Furthermore, the local teams collect seeds from the trees and use them to grow seedlings. After extra love and care, these seedlings are then replanted in the restoration sites.
Between 2019 and 2022, the local organizations in Brazil managed to plant 390,735 seedlings of 220 species (including Juçara palms), thanks to the support from the WWF and HP. Presently, their $80 million projects utilize several high-impact, nature-based strategies to combat ecosystem loss and boost climate resilience. This sets the bar for other companies and encourages corporations to take similar environmental action.
Where is WWF and HP’s partnership headed?
Currently, HP and WWF are expanding the breadth of their work to boost biodiversity in and around the Atlantic Forest. This includes planting an additional 19,700 acres (8,000 hectares) of forest. Furthermore, they aim to enhance the protection and management of approximately 128,000 acres (52,000 hectares) of protected land. Ultimately, their goal is to carry out conservation projects that ensure the biome and its living organisms, including people, plants and animals thrive for generations.
Through their collective work to revive the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, the reforestation efforts carried out by HP and WWF are showing great promise. By planting Mother Trees such as the Juçara palms in the forest, the biome will receive an extra boost of support to thrive. This is because these plants will facilitate the growth of other organisms. Through the use of nature-based solutions, such as the ones highlighted in this article, there could be a 30% increase in climate change-mitigation. This would be sufficient to meet the 2050 goals set by the Paris Agreement to cap global warming at 1.5°C.
Images via WWF