PILOT PROGRAMME


 

We currently have a pilot project underway, with headquarters located at Eagle’s Nest – a wildlife sustainability project and venue of eco-excellence located within the same biological corridor of tropical dry forest that we ultimately plan to rewild.

 

The strategy for our pilot programme is based on Kew Gardens' report, ’10 Golden Rules for Restoring Forests’, as well as knowledge from an impressive team of experts, including; Professor Florin Ioras - Head of Buckinghamshire New University's Institute of Conservation and Sustainability, who boasts and impressive track record for managing global rewilding and conservation projects; Sarah Williams MSc - an expert in biodiversity, education, inclusion and sustainable development; Christoph Hubmann - a Costa Rica-based forestry expert, and Emile Rodrigues - a former Costa Rican government official who has successfully implemented a world-renowned rewilding scheme adjacent to the planned project.

 

We have invested $10,000 into building our nursery, under the guidance of a nursery expert and incorporating a suction-based water system which taps into the natural water source in the area. The nursery build is underway and our first major tree planting is scheduled for June 2021.

THE THREE MAIN PILLARS OF OUR PROJECT

 

Protection

 

Enhancement

 

Mitigation

Protection:
We must protect our natural environment. Not only to defend the species at risk of extinction, but because it is the only way humans will have the base to keep on living and adapting. Our strategy will prioritise preserving the existing ecosystem, the life that resides there, and protecting the land from erosion and drying out of the watershed.  

Enhancement:
Every action that we take as part of the rewilding project will prioritise enhancing the biodiversity of the soil, flora and fauna, protecting the nature required for our planet’s survival.

 

Mitigation:
Our rewilding model is shaped around mitigating human impact, and creating a rewilding model that can be used as an example of what steps to take to rewild vital eco-systems, and to reverse the negative impact of human interference on the land.



WELCOME TO HQ

Our pilot project is currently underway at Eagle’s Nest. The venue has numerous facilities that make it a great base, including accommodation, road access, catering facilities, a nursery and a natural water source to supply the project. Two hectares of land have been set aside to test our rewilding strategies using £100,000 seed investment over a period of 10 years from Enter Gallery - a Brighton-based art gallery committed to offsetting their carbon footprint.


Eagle’s Nest will serve as the headquarters for the Costa Rica rewilding project and all the work and liaison with the farmers will be run by the team on the ground there. 

Of the 67-hectares that make up the site, 50 are dedicated solely to conservation, reforestation and rewilding as part of an agreement with the Costa Rican government. The team are already hard at work, building the nursery, supplying water to the area, testing out rewilding strategies and recreating the primal jungle that the land is part of.

 

Eagle’s Nest will serve as the headquarters for the rewilding project and all the work and liaison with the farmers will be run by the team on the ground there – led by Hen Azenkot. Hen and his family have lived in this region for 17 years and are firmly-embedded in the local community.

 

Sustainable practices:

Throughout the venue, we practice recycling, agroforestry, permaculture and use renewable energy that supports the green electricity system of Costa Rica. When building, we work with the ergonomics of the land to ensure minimal earth moving, and only use sustainable building materials. Our water is tapped directly from the mountain’s fresh spring, ensuring no chemicals are required to purify the water source. Our fruit trees and vegetable patch provide us with fresh food that is consumed on-site to avoid waste. The nature trails that we have within our site are silent, to avoid disturbing the wildlife and to ensure our guests experience complete immersion in nature.

HOW ARE WE GETTING ON?

THE PILOT PROGRAMME

Our nursery build well underway
Another shot of the nursery, built under the guidance of a local nursery expert
Preparing our beds for our all important seedlings
Picking up 500 trees in preparation for our first planting
Hen Azenkot showing surveyors around the two hectare plot, so that they can complete the topographic study and mark on the natural spring, existing forest and areas to be planted.
A shot of the area that will be rewilded as part of the pilot programme.
One of the team connecting the natural spring to our water tank. We tap the well with a hose, allowing us to complete the process sustainably, using gravity alone.
Our beautiful natural water source.
Another shot of the area to be rewilded as part of the pilot.

HOW WE'RE APPLY THE 10 GOLDEN RULES OF REFORESTATION

Here is a list of the 10 Golden Rules for Reforestation outlined by Kew Gardens in 2020, and a summary of how we will be applying these rules to our pilot programme... 


1 - PROTECT EXISTING FOREST FIRST
We will protect established forest at all costs. It sustains existing biodiversity and is most effective in terms of carbon sequestration. Established trees can evaporate up to 1000 litres of water per day, and withhold raindrops for almost a day before they fall on to the forest ground, making them invaluable in the fight to prevent flooding. We will not chop down any trees or undergo any negative alterations to the land, and will ensure that nothing we plant will endanger the existing species. Much of our initial planting will revolve around areas that surround existing forest, the presence of which plays a big role in helping to establish new plants.
 
Over the last 20 years, many farmers have reduced the amount of land they use for grazing their cattle, or they have sold or abandoned their farms entirely. This has led to secondary growth of fast-growing trees, like Cañafistula and Balsa – the fastest-growing tree in the Americas. Growth from these pioneer species has built a first canopy and will be crucial to the start of the rewilding – their short life, and often soft wood, will be part of the soil in the near future. This will contribute to improvements in the humus layer, which will allow other trees to germinate, and those trees will go on to build a second generation of more shade-bearing species, often hard woods. Much of our focus will be on creating living space for a big variety of flora and fauna within this secondary forest. Some additional planting may be done on spaces where there is nothing growing or the biodiversity is limited. 

2 – WORK TOGETHER
Ultimately, we hope to recreate perfect conditions for all living species endemic to a semi-dry tropical forest, resulting in all the natural benefits for flora, fauna and human. We aim to create an example of permaculture land management that is completely in harmony with nature, and will grant inhabitants access to clean drinking water, fresh air and organic fruit and vegetables for generations to come.
 
The protection of the future forest will only be secured if the local people are part of the process and understand the value of restoring the eco-system on their land. Hen and his family have been living in this area of Costa Rica for 17 years, so they are firmly embedded within the community and are on great terms with all their neighbours. With those farmers that we have yet to meet, we will prioritise establishing respectful relationships, providing new jobs, education, training, improved infrastructure and economic return for environmental services, including carbon sequestration, removal of waste from human activities and landscape maintenance.
 
Over the years, we have learned so much from the local people, so we understand how vital it is to learn from their extensive knowledge about the region and the species that belong here. All staff at Eagle’s Nest and those working on the project will be employed from the local community. We will use locally-sourced, sustainable materials, and human and workers’ rights and health and safety in the workplace will be prioritised.
 
We are committed to preserving, and learning from the knowledge of the local people. Their knowledge of the land, and of the flora within is unbelievably important to the future of the planet, chiefly in regards to cures for disease. As much of their knowledge is not written down, and is instead passed down from generation to generation, particularly in regards to indigenous tribes, if this knowledge is lost – it might be lost forever. By embedding their knowledge and experience into the pages of our rewilding programme, we hope to share the knowledge and ensure it is applied across the world.
 
It’s not just human collaboration that is required to make a success of the project. By reestablishing the natural habitat for all living beings, mammals, birds and insects will be able to once again play their vital roles in the distribution of seeds and pollination of flowers.
 
3 – AIM TO MAXIMISE BIODIVERSITY RECOVERY TO MEET MULTIPLE GOALS 
While trees and plants are important to the rewilding project, in order to maximise biodiversity recovery, we must also set our sights on both soil and water.
 
To rebuild the biological corridor between Diria National Park and the Pacific Ocean we must preserve and encourage the natural waterways that flow through the land. Beneath the biological corridor that we’re targeting lies an aquifer - an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, which supplies all of the water to the Nicoya Peninsula.
 
Although much of the Nicoya Peninsula was completely deforested, original vegetation was preserved around the rivers and creeks, as people understood the importance of keeping the original vegetation to preserve the water courses. These waterways are some of the only places where we still find patches of old, established growth and native trees.
 
We will focus on planting endemic species on the land that surrounds the waterways. This will encourage more water to flow to the area, and encourage wildlife to return. The presence of the aquifer makes planting trees and rewilding the corridor very efficient, improving the world’s oxygen levels and protecting a huge water reserve of the Costa Rican blue zone in the process.
 
Any eco-system requires healthy soil to function as intended, so improving the condition of the soil, and creating more, will be top priority. We plan to create more soil and humus via composting to improve general growing conditions. This will provide the substrate required to sprout new seeds, ultimately helping the ground to retain more water, and sequester more carbon. Improved soil will help with the development and enhancement of the forest’s mycorrhiza (fungus root system), which thrives on decomposing organic matter, and plays a vital role in plant nutrition, soil biology and soil chemistry.
 
4 – SELECT APPROPRIATE AREAS FOR REFORESTATION
Where we choose to build the foundations of the rewilding project is vital to its success. Initially, our focus will be on creating secondary forest, restoring life along the waterways, and stabilising the land.
 
Fast-growing species like Balsa and Cañafistula have already created secondary forest in some areas of the Guanacaste region. They have great short-term benefits, for example, Cañafistula is part of the Leguminosae family, and is highly-effective at extracting the nitrogen from the air, and putting it in the ground. The planting distance that we have chosen for the pilot project is five by eight metres, to allow both the planted trees, and these drop-in species space to flourish.
 
We plan to start rewilding the biological corridor along the waterways, eventually extending into the farms, giving the watershed the required biomass to recover and improve.
 
Sadly, when land has been used for cattle pasture, the ground becomes compacted and impermeable. This means that the ground becomes saturated with water, and eventually, this causes dangerous mudslides. We will use bioengineering methods to plant the right species to stabilise the land. Some of the species that we will plant to help control erosion include bamboo, Bougainvillea (veranera), poppies (amapola) and Indian Cane (Caña India).
 
5 – USE NATURAL REGENERATION WHEREVER POSSIBLE 
No matter the methods we select, we know that our efforts will never be as effective as nature itself. The most resilient forest is the one that grows naturally, without too much human impact. Our rewilding programme will factor in allowing natural regeneration where possible, and will focus on giving nature the helping hand it needs (via replanting barren land, etc) to make its come back.
 
While this method helps to reduce labour efforts and cost, it requires more patience and more knowledge of the flora. Local people hold the essential knowledge in terms of saplings, and will know what to cut and keep when maintaining the ground surrounding the planted trees. We can't wait to learn more from them.
 
For natural regeneration to work, the environment requires mother trees that bare the fruits and seeds needed to get things moving. Our focus will be on planting these mother trees, to allow the natural processes of the forest to be able to begin once again. Below, you will find a table detailing the species we have selected to plant in the first stages of the project.
 
6 – SELECT SPECIES TO MAXIMISE BIODIVERSITY
Due to the extensive deforestation of the land, a huge number of endemic species are in danger of extinction in this biological corridor. We will focus our rewilding efforts on aiding these endemic species in their establishment and growth.
 
By planting the mother trees needed to re-establish the lost biodiversity, we will establish the seed pool needed to encourage new growth and to return displaced species to the biological corridor. Within a decade the mothers will be producing the fruits and seeds that will be distributed by birds, wind, water and via fauna, encouraging regrowth. In addition to the missing species, we will also focus on food suppliers (for animals and humans), such as avocados, citrus fruits and breadnuts.
 
Insects are also important to forest systems. At some point in the future, we hope to add bee keeping to our rewilding project. In addition to regular honeybees, we will also care for endemic bee species, including the Mariola and Tobaga – both of which are stingless, and produce highly-medicinal honey. It is vital that we protect the bees, as they pollinate 80 percent of our food.
 
An amazing array of species of mammal, bird and insect once called this forest home, but have been displaced or wiped out as a result of the deforestation. Our plans include incorporation of plants that will encourage these species to return, stabilising the food chain in the process, and returning the land to its original state. Some examples of wildlife that has been displaced that we hope to see return are Scarlett Macaws, White-faced monkeys and toucans.
 
7 – USE RESILIENT PLANT MATERIALS
It is important that the trees and species that we plant are from local mother trees with good genetic strength and provenance. From collecting seeds, to growing the saplings in our nursery, we will be focused on finding the strongest species that are likely to deliver the best results. The full effects of climate change on the region are unknown. Potentially, there could be new species which have adapted to the changes that we will discover on our rewilding journey, or existing species which have adapted to altered conditions and are now dominant. Either way, we are paying attention and committed to learning as we go.
 
8 – PLAN AHEAD FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, CAPACITY AND SEED SUPPLY 
With both the pilot programme and the eventual rewilding of the 10,000 hectares, assessing existing infrastructure and road access will always play a role in forming our strategy.
 
To create our nursery for the pilot programme and for the main project, we will be repurposing an old house that is on-site at Eagle’s Nest. It already has a water source and is well-located for road access. Here we will establish a nursery and gardens, to produce seeds, saplings and food. The nursery will have a shade cloth made from banana leaves so that no plastic is involved. There is also a smaller house on-site, which would be the perfect premises for a caretaker.
 
One element of the pilot programme involves analysing the existing road and trail system, to ensure access and distribution is a smooth process. Over the course of the project, we will be establishing trails throughout the Eagle’s Nest finca, to improve accessibility and to give us better control over growth and development at the nursery, and at the planting sites. In terms of the wider project, access and methods for future extraction of wood and crops will always be planned thoroughly before we being to plant.
 
To aid the pilot project, and the establishment of the nursery on-site at Eagle’s Nest, we will be working to improve the water access on-site to ensure the seeds and saplings have the water required to thrive all year round. Two rivers currently flow through the Eagle’s Nest site, Rio Rosario and Rio Chollo. We will plant species (i.e. Piñuelo cacti) along these waterways to protect and maintain the springs and encourage water to return to the mountain.
 
9 – LEARN BY DOING
This is what the pilot programme at Eagle's Nest is all about. Our rewilding programme will be constantly tweaked according to what we learn from the people we work with, the things we discover and the results we achieve.
 
10 – MAKE IT PAY
For the project to be a success, it must encourage socio-economic growth, and result in an improvement to living standards and livelihoods. The UN’s Three Pillars of Sustainable Development are economic, social and environmental, and all three will play key roles in our planning and execution.
 
In addition to planting trees and plants which provide farmers with food and income, we are aiming to create an investment model that allows businesses a real opportunity to offset their carbon footprint via participating in our rewilding project.

 

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