Our climate is changing dramatically, and it has seriously affected the natural life in many parts of the planet. Ecologists are fighting to conserve any part of it while they still can. Two ecologists got bent of a mission to save the tropical ecosystem of Costa Rica.
They requested an orange producer to donate a part of his forest land so as they may dispose of great amounts of orange peel on a degraded plot of land in the same park. Not a big deal, right? Well, it did turn out to be a big deal after all!
Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, a married couple of ecologists, were working in the Área de Conservación Guanacaste national park in Costa Rica back in 1997. They came up with the bright idea of saving a piece of completely forested land from a big fruit juice company and even thought of a super attractive deal.
The company named Del Oro was offered a 3-hectare piece of degraded land in the Área de Conservación Guanacaste national park to dispose of massive amounts of orange peel if they donated a part of their forested land for the cause. It was a win-win situation for both parties as the left over pulp and orange peel, both required burning and then dumping at a landfill.
Del Oro dumped around 12,000 metric tons of orange waste in the national park, only to be challenged by their competitors TicoFruit in court that they were “defiling a national park.” The competitor won, and the deal between Del Oro and the park was ended. The 3-hectare plot of land was not monitored for the next 15 years, and it continued to be filled with more and more fruit waste. The discussion came up in 2013 when Daniel Janzen and Timothy Treur, the scientists of Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, mentioned the story of orange peel. Many researchers had visited the land in all those years, but it was never evaluated. Hence, Janzen suggested a trip to the degraded land that was covered with fruit for years.
You should hear the results from Timothy Treur’s own mouth who told Princeton University that,
“It was so completely overgrown with trees and vines that I couldn’t even see the 7-foot-long sign with bright yellow lettering marking the site that was only a few feet from the road. I knew we needed to come up with some really robust metrics to quantify exactly what was happening and to back up this eye-test, which was showing up at this place and realizing visually how stunning the difference was between fertilized and unfertilized areas.”
Jonathan Choi added more details saying,
“The site was more impressive in person than I could’ve imagined. While I would walk over exposed rock and dead grass in the nearby fields, I’d have to climb through undergrowth and cut paths through walls of vines in the orange peel site itself.”
Although the site had turned into a spectacular piece of forest, there was no proof that the orange peel was responsible for it. The next few months were spent picking up samples from the land and analyzing them, and that is when Treur and his team found,
“dramatic differences between the areas covered in orange peels and those that were not. The area fertilized by orange waste had richer soil, more tree biomass, greater tree-species richness and greater forest canopy closure.”
“This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration,” Treuer said. “It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park — it’s a win for everyone,” Treur added.