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Apple’s Restore Fund cultivate new roots in the Atlantic Forest news

Apple’s Restore Fund cultivate new roots in the Atlantic Forest

In South America’s Atlantic Forest, many suggest that life depends on a mother: the superior matriarch who provides for all. This is true for its plants and animals, and even the trees that tower above, reaching skyward to the sun while providing shade for the life that resides in their underbrush.

It is estimated there are 5,000 tree species in existence in the Atlantic Forest today. Of those species, two-thirds are threatened with extinction after centuries of exploitative, extractive practices. Restoring the rainforest — a potential 100 million-acre restoration area in Brazil alone — has been at the core of Apple-supported projects in the region, including one just inland from the coastal town of Trancoso in Bahia, Brazil, where one company is cultivating seedlings from mother trees, the most resilient trees from multiple species that have survived the rainforest’s destruction.

Bruno Mariani, founder and CEO, Symbiosis: “We started with the best genetic material possible, harvested in a huge native reserve of the Atlantic rainforest. That would attract a lot of fauna and insects.

Founded in 2008, Symbiosis has been collecting, banking, and planting seeds from mother trees of various Brazilian native species since 2010. “The mother tree represents the nature that provides us all the energy and the basis for restoration, so the mother tree gives us all,” says Mickael Mello, Symbiosis’s plant nursery manager.

Symbiosis is one of three investments that are part of Apple’s Restore Fund, announced in 2021 with the goal of scaling nature-based solutions to address climate change. In partnership with Goldman Sachs and Conservation International, the Restore Fund has invested in three carbon removal projects across Brazil and Paraguay with the aim of delivering benefits that go far beyond carbon — from strengthening local livelihoods to enhancing biodiversity.

Since their first planting, which consisted of 160 different species spread across an area that will be permanently protected from wood harvesting, Symbiosis has expanded its restoration of threatened native trees. In its efforts to decrease biodiversity loss, Symbiosis has committed to conserving 40 percent of its land with natural, multispecies forests, while the remaining land supplies precious tropical hardwoods from responsibly managed sources.

After planting 800 hectares of biodiverse forestland over a decade, the company has ambitions to plant over 1 million seedlings on 1,000 hectares in 2024 alone.

Mariani: “Trees work in groups, like a network. They are social beings and they want to help each other. For different species, their roots go to different depths of the soil so they’re not competing — they’re cooperating.”

The Atlantic Forest is situated along South America’s eastern coast, starting in northeastern Brazil and sprawling farther inland as it makes its way down to southeastern Paraguay and northern Argentina. It is just 40 miles wide at its northernmost point and stretches approximately 200 miles inland from its southern Atlantic coastline.

 After more than 500 years of deforestation, the rainforest has been depleted by 80 percent, with the terrain cultivated as agricultural land for coffee, cacao, sugarcane, and other crops; and used as pastures for livestock. Much of the rainforest has been depleted of its precious hardwoods — including the brazilwood and Brazilian rosewood used in furniture, construction, and even musical instruments like guitars. Today, similar activity is underway in the Amazon.

Mariani: “It was inspiring to me to see the power of restoration of nature and how traditional knowledge can be combined with science.”

Estimates show the Atlantic Forest has a potential reforestation area of around 40 million hectares, or 100 million acres. Symbiosis’s approach to forestry aims to both create a high-quality sustainable working forest while continuing the fight against climate change with one of the most vital tools for carbon sequestration: nature itself.

Alan Batista, chief financial officer, Symbiosis: “We’re balancing wood production and carbon stocks. Woody biomass actually creates a lot of carbon stored here, and we know we have a lot of carbon being stored in the soil as well. So when it comes to harvesting, we have to think all the way from the beginning to the end of the cycle. The management we’re applying here is continuous cover forest management, meaning we’re going to manage for perpetuity. It’s going to always be covered with forest.”

A little over 1,600 miles southwest of Trancoso, another Restore Fund project is underway at Forestal Apepu in the San Pedro district of Paraguay.

In this southwestern region of the Atlantic Forest, Forestal Apepu is developing fast-growing eucalyptus forests for high-quality timber production on lands that were deforested decades ago, while protecting the remaining natural forest and planting native species through experimental trials. By focusing on high-quality timber managed on longer growing cycles, Forestal Apepu allows for more carbon removal and longer-term storage on its forestland.

They also hope the solid wood products produced from their high-quality timber will alleviate pressures on the natural forest itself, resulting in carbon being stored in long-lived wood products even after a tree is cut.

A key part of Forestal Apepu’s work extends beyond the borders of the forest: The project is also supporting the local communities through a series of social impact initiatives around the neighboring San Estanislao, Paraguay.

The landlocked region has depended on the forest for timber, firewood, and their agricultural needs for generations. As part of Apple’s Restore Fund, Forestal Apepu is working with local communities to identify alternate sources of supplemental income that alleviate pressure on the timber forests in the area. These sources include employment in the company’s Forest Stewardship Council-certified eucalyptus farms, land leases through its outgrower model (in which smallholder landowners are given seedlings and technical assistance to grow and manage timber), chicken production through a local women’s association, and yerba mate cultivation.

Graciela Gimenez has lived in Cururu’o, a small community of roughly 1,200 people, for 40 years. Every morning, she wakes at 5 a.m. to start her daily routine: feeding and changing the water for her chickens, cleaning the house, cooking the family’s meals, and tending to any needs that may arise for the women’s association she helped create and is president of.