Mycorrhizal Forestry in Chile
Chile is one of the most developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere but an astounding two-thirds of the country (48 million hectares) is affected or threatened by desertification and
drought (CONAF 2006). Of the 1.3 million people inhabiting the most affected areas, approximately 60% live in poverty.
Between 50 and 150 years ago vast areas of the country were cleared for wheat production for export, to feed gold prospectors in North America. Without the forest cover, particularly in hilly regions, soil is eroded and the land degrades quickly. These degraded areas are unproductive and liable to flooding and drought, making rehabilitation of the forest very difficult.
An innovative partnership between biotech company Mikro-Tek and the Chilean forestry department is changing this. Mycorrhizae are fungi that work symbiotically with trees. The fungi grow on the trees’ roots, encouraging the formation of larger, healthier root systems, enabling plants to absorb additional nutrients and moisture from the soil. In exchange the host trees provide the fungi with energy in the form of carbohydrates from photosynthesis.
Local communities have established nurseries where saplings are inoculated with the fungi to ensure its strong presence when the trees are planted. When planted, these saplings (now covering over 6,000 hectares) stabilise soil, reduce flooding and erosion risk, and provide an income for the landowners when they are harvested. This takes place 10-20 years after planting – at which point they are replaced with new saplings and the cycle continues.
Delivering towards the Global Goals
What the carbon finance delivers
The carbon finance made the development of the project possible by introduction of the mycorrhizal technology. It also facilitates loans from the government for landowners to do the initial planting and forestry plan – as a guaranteed income is forthcoming later down the line.