Preserving the true heritage and wealth of forests
By Jayant Sarnaik | Project Leader
Greetings from AERF!
We are truly satisfied to see the level of motivation that our field team has maintained and continued the work of saving the real treasure of the Western Ghats mountain chain- the amazing giant trees over the last 6 years since the campaign was launched in 2017. In the last quarter, we brought total 26 giant trees under conservation management through this campaign.
Our field team identified these trees in the forests of village Nive in Sangameshwar block of Ratnagiri district. The team held consulatations with heads of two families and convinced them about the importance of conserving these trees successfully. Importantly, these 26 trees include species having exceptional medicinal, timber properties as well as ecological attributes. For example- the giant Ficus calosa produces enormous number of fruits that all the frugivores birds love and depend on for their dietary requirement e.g. Giant hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill and Malabar gray hornbill. Similarly, the trees being conserved include a giant speciemen of Gmelina arborea -an excellent timber species, Pterocarpus marsupium and Terminalia bellirica and Terminalia arjuna - trees having life saving medicinal values. Lastly but very importantly, this group of trees also include giant wild mango trees. Besides their high economic importance as timber, wild mangoes are an intergral part of cultural and ecological identity of these forest landscapes and its communities. More importantly, considering that these forests face imminent threats of deforestation due to private ownership, saving these trees is equal to preserving the ecological heritage of this region.
We truly thank you for your unwavering support to this very important cause.
High value native timber giant
Ecological and cultural identity- Giant wild mango
Giant trees- a factory of carbon processing and life saving medicines
By Jayant Sarnaik | Project Leader
Fungi and giant trees-1
While on the ground work on mapping giant trees and rewarding the custodians is progressing steadily. we thought of taking a stock of scientific research that is going on to understand the role of fungi in mitigating climate change by sequestering large amounts of carbon in the soil and also provide vital medicines to cure diseases such as COVID. Significant research has been carried out to understand role of fungi in supplying us with critical vitamins such as B2, B3, B5 and D.
Results from recent research on assessing potential of fungi in storing and retaining carbon in the soil highlight the interconnectedness and interdependence of fungis with and on the host plants/ trees- one that dates back more than 400 million years. The fungi colonize plant roots and extend far beyond their hosts to provide nutrients that are critical for growth of the plant. In return, the plants supply sugars made from carbon dioxide absorbed from the air during photosynthesis. Through this process, plants/ trees send the mycorrhizal fungi nearly 4 gigatons of carbon each year. This equates to nearly the annual emissions of the USA and China combined. These fungi assume the form of soil organic matter and help the soil to retain carbon. Some 75% ot the terrestrial cabon is stored in soil.
After going through these recent research papers on the topic, we clearly understand the critical role giant trees play in processing carbon dioxide from the air in large quantities and passing it on to the fungi growing underground along their vast network of roots in form of sugars. In the process these trees supply us with life saving oxygen. There is growing interest in estimating large soil organic carbon pools beneath the giant trees due to the recent research on fungal network and how they enrich the soil with carbon which they have initially received from the host tree in form of sugar. The studies on carbon sequestration of old growth forest indicate that these small assamblages of giant trees spread over across the world absorb as much as 10% of total carbon dixoide emissions globally which is very significant.
Our inclination / habit to look at the things in isolation rather than understand the interconnectedness among all the creatures of nature has brought us in this situation where we need to find solutions to the formidable environmental challenges such as climate change and loss of biodiversity. We take solace in the fact that we had understood the symbiotic relationships between different species and have immense clarity about the fact the large trees are our best bait and strong line of defence while fighting climate change and avoiding biodiversity loss.
Thanks for your interest in and support to this important cause.
In the last quarter, we came across an interesting and innovative progressive farmer from village Devghar near Devrukh in Sangameshwar block, Ratnagiri district- geographic focus of majority of our activities in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. He informed us that besides growing Black pepper, Cinnamon, and Arecanut, he has also started growing coffee. This was a pleasant surprise for us. Thus we immediately visited his orchard and indeed saw many healthy and fruiting coffee plants. According to him, he had planted some 1000 coffee plants two years ago and they were all producing coffee beans. An important factor influencing the production of the coffee was that his orchard was home to more than 40 Giant native trees. These Giant trees not only provided much needed shade for the coffee but also facilitated the pollination process by attracting bees and other pollinators to the orchard. I had heard about a 500 Million USD climate fund launched by a big corporate coffee company to deal with impact of climate change on coffee plantations owned and managed by the company few years ago. The main goal of the climate fund was to identify and collaborate with cofffee farmers who have shade trees on their farms. When we connect these dots, the picture becomes very clear and we understand how important the Giant trees are for making an economically important crop such as coffee climate resilient.
We acknowledged his efforts in conservation of giant trees and felicitated him with the certificate of appreciation. He was glad to know that he will be receiving a token amount towards appreciation of his efforts.
While our investment in saving giant trees through your support is miniscule compared to Starbuck's climate fund but it is timely and will go long way in spreading the message about the importance of giant trees in building resilience of our agriculture sector and further the cause of giant tree conservation.
We would like to thank you for your continued interest and support to the Giant tree conservation campaign.
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