LONDON, 23rd FEBRUARY 2021. Trillion Trees partner the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has proven the viability of Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) in degraded forest areas of Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park – even during a pandemic.

In the 1990s, around 10% of the 100,000 hectare forest was lost to fires. WCS undertook years of quality research and testing, which revealed the potential for Assisted Natural Regeneration. A grant from The Body Shop helped work get off the ground, and now, within just one year, there is forest regrowth across 70 hectares – a landscape equivalent in size to more than 1,100 tennis courts. Trillion Trees aims to attract more financial support to scale the project across the estimated 6,000 hectares of degraded forest in Nyungwe that is feasibly restorable, adding around 2.5 million trees to the park. Over 30 years they would absorb more than a million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

The fires, set by poachers and wild honey collectors, razed the forest. Bracken ferns grew in its place, which suffocated native seeds buried in the soil and increased Nyungwe’s vulnerability to future fires. WCS’s research determined that if the ferns could be cleared, the forest could grow back, helped along by planting native tree seedlings raised in nurseries.

In January 2020, with the generous grant from The Body Shop via its World Bio-Bridges Mission and supported by Trillion Trees, WCS Rwanda scaled up restoration. More than 120 local people took part in the labour-intensive and challenging work of clearing ferns in areas only accessible by foot in the mountainous terrain. The project was paused when Rwanda went into national lockdown, but when restrictions were lifted the teams returned to work with new measures in place to ensure Covid-19 transmission was controlled – enabling them to safely clear the ferns and invasive plant species. Now, the first green shoots of new life are already visible on the forest floor.

“The project in Rwanda is a shining example of what can be achieved when expertise is supported by funding. The team has achieved extraordinary results in a short time, despite the challenging circumstances brought by COVID-19. The goal of our Bio-Bridges Mission is to restore wild spaces and the work in Nyungwe is delivering immense value in this area,” says Christopher Davis, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at The Body Shop.

“Through their work in Rwanda, the WCS team has proven that one simple solution can unlock the power of natural forest regeneration, a valuable tool for climate action and restoring biodiversity. Worldwide, Trillion Trees’ partners are delivering fast, smart, evidence-based solutions that enhance the natural world for people, climate and nature,” says John Lotspeich, Executive Director of Trillion Trees.

“The generous support from The Body Shop International via a three-year grant has enabled us to kick start assisted natural regeneration activities and achieve important milestones in the first year of the project,” says Mediatrice Bana, WCS Rwanda’s project lead in Nyungwe. “Next steps involve completing all remaining cycles of fern removal and monitoring tree growth and return of other biodiversity, such as birds and mammals in areas under restoration. Looking ahead, we hope to attract funding to restore approximately 6,000 ha of degraded forest that is feasibly restorable in Nyungwe.”

Nyungwe is home to more than 200 tree species and a diversity of birdlife and wildlife, including the endangered eastern chimpanzee. It is a vital water store, accounting for 50% of Rwanda’s power via hydroelectricity, and a key generator of tourism revenue.

 

The next phases of the project will coincide with the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in 2021, underscoring Trillion Trees’ commitment to accelerating positive action for people, nature and climate.

Note to Editors

High-res images of the project are available to download here. For further information on the project see article here.

Trillion Trees Trillion Trees is a joint venture between BirdLife International, WCS and WWF to urgently speed up and scale up the positive power of forests, helping the world protect and restore one trillion trees by 2050. To learn more about how we’re improving forest protection, advancing restoration and ending deforestation visit trilliontrees.org and follow us on Twitter @1TrillionTrees

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