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Coffee waste to jump-start tropical forest growth on deforested land

Deforestation is one of the most pressing environmental concerns of our time. Forests play a vital role in maintaining the wider world’s delicate ecosystems, and without them, the Earth would quickly become unbalanced. Further deforestation will lead to a great many problems, from flooding and soil erosion to pollution and vast loss of biodiversity. 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and there are many things that we can do to prevent deforestation and revive deforested lands. And, as the Netherlands is one of the highest coffee-consuming nations in the world, this is perhaps even more relevant to us here at Dutch Green Business! Here, we discuss how coffee waste could jump-start tropical forest growth on deforested land.

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According to research, coffee waste can significantly help deforested lands kick-start their recovery in many ways. In recent research held in Costa Rica, two land areas were chosen to be tested. 

One of the lands was treated with coffee waste, while the other remained untouched. The experiment was done to analyse the impact of coffee waste on growing back the vegetation lost due to deforestation. Both sites did not contain any signs of growth of tropical species, as they were covered with invasive palisade grass.

After two years, researchers returned to the land and found something astonishing. They found that the land they had treated with coffee pulp had grown quite a number of plant species typically found in the rainforests. The land had essentially become a tiny forest over a short amount of time.

The land without the addition of the coffee waste (and all the beneficial nutrients that it contains) had started to revert back to nature as well, but with much less success and a great deal slower progress. Deforested lands can take hundreds of years to regain all their lost tropical forest species. But spreading the coffee waste made significant steps in a time frame of just two years.

How did the coffee waste benefit the restoration of degraded land?

After analysing the mind-blowing results, the leader of the study Dr Rebecca Cole, and a study author, Rakhan Zahawi, at the University of Hawaii, concluded that the way the coffee waste worked was quite incredible. The processes initiated by the coffee waste led to the destruction of the pasture grass, which allowed the growth of native trees and plants whilst increasing soil fertility.

The research concluded that deforested land should be treated with coffee pulp only when it is dry or in areas where the climate is usually hot. The reason they stated this was that it gave time for the coffee pulp to settle deep in the roots and kill all the pasture grass. Another benefit was that the increased fertility of the soil attracted a greater number and variety of insects and other creatures that further spread native plant species to the area. This allowed a greater number of tropical species to become established in a short period.

Creating nature-based solutions to deal with waste sustainably

This study demonstrates that, through thinking about how we deal with waste in the most sustainable and useful way and thinking outside the box, we will often find that many of the solutions are right under our noses! We just need to find them!

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