Two exciting seminars on Maya Nut tree at Kew

Participants on one of many Maya Nut capacity building courses funded by the Darwin Initiative. This one was at Versailles, Chichigalpa, in Nicaragua. Image: Erika Vohman, Maya Nut Institute

On the 24th and 25th of April Erika Vohman (CEO of the Maya Nut Institute) and Mike Rowley a grad student at the University of Bournemouth gave two great talks at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and its subsidiary, the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in Sussex. Erika spoke about our Darwin Initiative project with the tropical tree Brosimum alicastrum or Maya Nut which finished last month within the context of focusing sustainable development projects in Central America on women and markets.

The slide above shows the role of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) and livelihoods in the sustainable use and conservation of forests in Central America. Our project invested in workshops and the generation of knowledge to support its sustainable use.

Continue reading Two exciting seminars on Maya Nut tree at Kew

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Additional cattle ranches and farms join our project

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Rolman Velarde measuring out rows to plant Inga at the latest site to participate in our project, Las Palmas, close to Porbenir. We are working with the owner to rehabilitate 2 ha of abandoned agricultural land with the aim of producing one hectare of rubber and one of fruit trees. Image: Rolman Velarded, Herencia.

As highlighted in previous posts we are aiming to engage with cattle ranchers and non-subsistence farmers as well as rural communities. The reason for doing so is that these larger-scale enterprises arguably have just as big an impact on natural forest as small scale slash-and-burn farmers. In March we planted our first Inga trial to enrich degraded cattle pasture at San Antonio cattle ranch and this April we have planted 2 ha of Inga on abandoned land at the Las Palmas farm. We also have another interested rancher, Ruben Burgos, and look forwards to planting on his ranch as soon as we have sufficient seedlings to do so.  With respect to engagement we are using a different strategy with cattle ranchers and farmers than that which we developed to work with rural communities. Continue reading Additional cattle ranches and farms join our project

One month after planting…

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Our first agroforest plot at the Motacusal community a month after planting. On our follow-up visit we were pleasantly surprised to see that not a single of more than a 1000 sown had died. Image: Rolman Velarde, Herencia

It is now a month since sowing our first agroforest plot during the last days of February. A month later Rolman Velarde and Rodrigo Flores returned to assess how the seedlings were doing: how many had died, what evidence of pest damage there was and how they had grown. As you can see in the image above progress has been good. Whilst they may not have grown very quickly, none had died and only a few had suffered what looks like cricket damage despite most having aquired the protection of ants attracted to the nectary glands on their leaves. We were also reassured to see that ‘weeds’ have not grown up faster than anticipated which means that our plan to weed every two months should be effective. The wet-season is now starting to abate and in three months the driest time of year will test their establishment. Continue reading One month after planting…

Seminar at Kew by Mike Rowley: tropical tree converts atmospheric CO2 into mineralized carbonate

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Calcium carbonate (limestone) deposits believed to originate from Brosimum alicastrum (Maya Nut) root-microbe interactions. If confirmed this would be the first tree that has been shown to do so.

At 3 pm on April 24 at the Royal Botanic Gardens, in the Jodrell Seminar Room, Mike Rowley, postgraduate student at Bournemouth University will be giving a seminar in which he proposes that the tropical tree Brosimum alicastrum could be one of the first tree species demonstrated to convert atmospheric CO2 into mineralized carbonate that is deposited in the soil. This could be an exciting discovery as such mineralized carbon in the form of carbonate remains stored inertly  for ca. x 1000 longer than organically sequestered carbon and so could represent a novel approach to carbon sequestration. Mike will present the evidence and mechanisms for this biomineralization to occur. The seminar will take place in the Jodrell Seminar Room at 3 pm. Entry is free but please contact Alex Monro via this post beforehand. See directions below:

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Using Youtube to capture botanical expertise

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Henk van der Werff, World expert in the laurel familiy, one of the most common and hardest to identify families of trees in the lowland tropics. He is surrounded by some of Kew’s best botanists keen for tips on how to identify this difficult group. Click for a clip of Henk introducing the family.

There are about 350,000 species of vascular plants, most of which are found in the Tropics. These are divided amongst about 500 families of varying sizes, from a single species to 35,000 species (orchids). Plants provide most of our food, clothes, building materials and are the source of most medicines. Ironically they are also the source of fossil fuels. The current changing climate and massive destruction of natural habitats makes our ability to manage and use this resource sustainably critical for the maintenance of our current lifestyles and quality of life. Key to this is the ability to document that diversity, for similar reasons to the need for a stock-check in a supermarket. One family of plants that many tropical botanists live in fear of identifying is the laurel (bay) family Lauraceae. Continue reading Using Youtube to capture botanical expertise