Re: [soil-age] Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change in the Heart of Borneo

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Erich Knight

Feb 22, 2018, 10:17:25 AM2/22/18
to biochar,
A wonderful reforestation and energy program in Borneo that Dr. Goreau reports on,

On Feb 1, 2018 11:14 AM, "Thomas Goreau" <> wrote:
In the heart of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) I’ve just seen the finest project on regenerative development to reverse climate change in the world, surrounded by some of the worst deforestation in the world. 

What follows is a brief description based on an intense one day field visit, focused on mangrove and coral regeneration, green and blue carbon sequestration, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and community development, with no time to look at their sustainable energy projects, or their rescue of thousands of orang utans, proboscis monkeys, and other wildlife, saved from deforested areas where their habitat has been destroyed and where they risk being killed as vermin. 

Kalimantan (Borneo) is the second largest tropical island in the world, only slightly smaller than Papua (New Guinea), with exceptional biodiversity in vast tropical jungles, swamps, and mangroves that were practically untouched just a generation ago. Now they are subject to a wild land rush as speculators “buy” virgin jungle inhabited by orang utans and indigenous forest Dayak and Iban peoples, displace them, and totally destroy the jungle to plant monocultures of oil palms, or trees for plywood and pulp for paper mills. Vast areas that were recently high biomass virgin forest are being clearcut and replaced by single species plantations as far as the eye can see; West African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta), or black wattle (Acacia mangium, a nitrogen fixing tree I got to grow more than 8 times faster in the worst soils in Panama using basalt powder alone). As in the vast areas of Brazil I saw 35 years ago where the Amazonian and Atlantic jungles had been clearcut for Eucalyptus deglupta pulpwood plantations, these areas have no wild animals, no birds, no insects. The richest biodiversity in the world has been turned into biological deserts in the service of human greed. And just as I saw in Brazil in the 1980s, in Borneo you can see massive erosion gullies growing, caused by bare soil exposure to pounding Equatorial rain after clearcutting and planting to monocultures. These areas are sprayed with Roundup (glyphosate) to prevent regeneration of secondary forest from seeds in the soil or re-sprouting from the cut stumps, which accelerates erosion and loss of soil carbon and nutrients.

The massive deforestation of high carbon peat soils, and their drainage for oil palm plantations, has resulted in severe forest and peat soil fires that last year temporarily made Indonesia the world’s largest CO2 source! These fires happen most during El Niños, which cause Indonesian waters to be much cooler than normal, lowering evaporation from the sea and therefore greatly reducing rainfall on the 17,000 islands of Indonesia, causing crippling droughts. When I first came to Indonesia during the 1997-1998 droughts not only did I see vast tracts of Clove agro-forests dead, but even the coconut palms had died from drought, something I’d never seen in my life and didn’t realize was even possible. 

What is truly astonishing about this project (which I could see only a small part of) is the complexity, integration, and scale of what is being done, integrating every possible tool we know of, including biochar, rock powders, beneficial mycorhizae and bacteria inoculation, green manure composts, banteng (Balinese dwarf cattle) manure, tissue culture to mass propagate special selected plant strains, beneficial plant introductions (many I’ve known all my life in my home countries in the Caribbean and Central America), agroforestry, and so many other methods of both modern scientific and traditional sustainable development. 

Another major focus of this project, which I did not have any time to look at, is renewable energy. They are getting local farmers to switch from oil palm to sugar palms (Arenga pinnata) and of Nipa palm (Nypa fruticans which grows in salt water estuaries with mangroves) both of which can be sustainably tapped to produce large amounts of sugar syrup that will be used as feedstock for the world’s largest ethanol plant for sustainable biofuel production and to produce the raw chemical materials to make a huge variety of bioplastics.

They also will build a small dam to create a lake, which will produce hydropower, but vastly more energy from floating solar panels. Unlike the dams in Brazil and Panama, which flooded and killed live forest, the vegetation will be removed and converted to biochar and biocoal (torrefaction) and not left to rot in the water. In the Amazon in the 1980s I measured methane emissions from such flooded forest dam lakes, and found that along with termite nests, they dominated methane fluxes to the atmosphere from the Amazon, not the cattle ranches.  

Some of the projects my own Biorock Indonesia team is planning with them is to regenerate vast areas of mangrove that were illegally logged for oil palm plantations. We will restore the hydrology with the Mangrove Action Project team, and use Biorock methods to greatly speed up mangrove growth, both above and below ground (as we do with sea grass and salt marsh), reverse the acidification of the soil caused by oxidation of peat and iron sulfides that prevents natural regeneration, and increase the carbon preservation and storage in peat. Since Indonesia has the world’s largest area of mangroves, our goal is to turn Indonesia into a major global carbon sink to reverse climate change. We will also grow corals, which amazingly are found 23 kilometers up the estuary, in waters full of 5 meter man-eating crocodiles. 

This project is run by Arsari Enviro Industry, a visionary Indonesian regeneration and sustainable development company whose Chief Science Officer, Dr. Willie Smits, is a global resource. This huge project is a model not just for Indonesia but the entire world, and involves holistic action on the mega-scale essential for reversing global climate change that I’ve dreamed of for so long and never thought I would ever actually see! This is not geo-engineering, its Geotherapy, the use of the best science to regenerate our planet’s natural ability to heal itself and stabilize climate at safe CO2 levels around 270 ppm.

You can see much more of their amazing work at: (and the two videos that follow it) (then click on video)

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
President, Biorock Technology Inc.
Coordinator, Soil Carbon Alliance
Coordinator, United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Small Island Developing States Partnership in New Sustainable Technologies


Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase

Innovative Methods of Marine Ecosystem Restoration

The Green Disc, New Technologies for a New Future: Innovative Methods for Sustainable Development

No one can change the past, everyone can change the future

When lies trump truth, the dark ages begin

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