If you’ve visited a rainforest, you’ll know they are amazing places. The sights, sounds and smells are vibrant and fascinating. Did you know, though, that the smell of a rainforest is an important component of making rainfall? Yes, you read that correctly!
Rainforests are vital in producing rain because of their role in evapotranspiration, where water moves from the Earth’s surface into the atmosphere. Rain is a product of condensation, but to produce each drop of rain, water molecules need something to condense on. These surfaces can include pollen, salts and ice crystals – and, in the rainforest, volatile organic scent compounds released by leaves. Is there anything rainforests can’t do if we look after them?
Thank you for continuing to support us in replanting rainforest and keeping the Earth in balance.
Orangutans are sometimes referred to as ‘gardeners of the forest’ because of their role in seed-dispersal (they spread seeds in their dung). Seed dispersal is vital for the health of rainforests, so as much as orangutans need forests, the forests need them too.
New research shows that the loss of large animals such as orangutans and elephants from ecosystems has a huge impact on plants’ ability to respond to climate change. Larger animals transport seeds further than smaller ones, which helps mitigate the effects of the changing climate on plant species by enabling them to migrate. Losing this function by losing orangutans and other large seed-dispersing animals threatens not only the plants themselves, but the things we rely on them for, such as carbon storage and food production.
Thankfully, the rewilding methods used by our partners in Sumatra enable orangutans and elephants to return quite quickly to the sites they work on and resume their role as gardeners of the forest. Of course, we must also ensure that we work to keep animal populations stable by connecting forest patches and understanding what other threats face them, and we are continuously analysing data to keep ahead of these trends.
At the sites being rewilded in Sumatra, staff and volunteers use eco-polybags to house seeds and seedlings as they grow in the tree nurseries. In the past, they used plastic polybags, which protected the seedlings but created a lot of waste, which of course was not biodegradabale.
While eco-polybags made from banana trunk fibres are biodegradable and enable the new trees' roots to breathe, humidity and heat at the planting sites makes the eco-polybags start to break down much quicker than the team would ideally want. For fast-growing seedlings, it's not too much of a problem, as within a few months the seedlings can be moved out of the nursery environment and planted out in the site, where the eco-polybag degrading won't cause their roots to rot. However, it's important to grow a mix of species - including slow-growing trees, which stay in the nursery for much longer. If the eco-polybags start breaking down while in the nursery when the roots are not surrounded by the complex soil of the larger site, it can be disastrous for the delicate seedlings.
To address this problem, staff are now replacing the eco-polybags for slow-growing seedlings every three months while they're in the tree nursery. This has the added bonus of providing more work for the women's groups who are paid to make the eco-polybags. Many of the women are now using eco-polybags in their own vegetable gardens as well.
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