Eminent scientists join new CBA Scientific Advisory Board

Five scientists have joined the newly established Circular Bioeconomy Alliance Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), to provide scientific advice on CBA principles, strategic plans and activities.

Bart Muys has been appointed as the first Chair of the SAB for 2022-2025. Bart is a Professor of Forest Ecology and Management at KU Leuven (Belgium). His research focuses on the role of tree diversity for forest ecosystem functioning under climate change, on restoration ecology of dry forests, and on sustainability evaluation of forests and bioenergy systems. He is supervisor of 47 graduated and 15 ongoing PhDs. Several of the papers he co-authored have been highly cited, and in 2021 he featured in Reuters’ hot list of most influential climate scientists.

Nathalie Seddon is Professor of Biodiversity and Founding Director of the Nature-based Solutions Initiative in the Department of Biology at the University of Oxford, and Director of the Agile Initiative and co-lead of the Biodiversity and Society Programme at the Oxford Martin School. She is also founding non-executive Director of the Oxford University Social Venture, Nature-based Insetting. 

José J. Campos Arce is the executive director of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a global collaborative network that works towards transforming agriculture. He has 35 years of experience in international cooperation, technical, academic and scientific organizations and NGOs, working in international development, science and education. José is the former director general of CATIE, and former Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of CIFOR.

Demel Teketay Fanta is Professor in Forest Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Natural Resources at Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. His research focuses on diversity, stand structure, dynamics and restoration of vegetation in the different forest types, as well as sustainable/responsible forest management, the role of fire in the regeneration of plant species, and invasive plant species.

Sonya Dewi is the ICRAF country programme coordinator of Indonesia and is a Senior Landscape Ecologist. During more than twenty years of professional career as a researcher, she has focused on the understanding of the trade-offs and integration between conservation and development agendas at the landscape level across different contexts, and on identifying options to change the trajectories in several countries, such as Indonesia, India and Brazil.

Image: Adobe.stock.com – Leigh Prather

CBA welcomes new member

LVMH has joined the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance as a member, becoming part of a global movement powered by nature and people.

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA) was established by King Charles III in his former role as The Prince of Wales in 2020.

The CBA is an action-oriented partnership that connects the dots between investors, companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to advance the circular bioeconomy on the ground while restoring biodiversity globally. Activities include its global network of Living Labs for Nature, People and Planet which use landscape restoration projects as the starting point to catalyse the development of circular bioeconomy value chains while restoring biodiversity and local livelihoods.

LVMH provides support for the CBA’s Living Lab in Chad which focuses on sustainable cotton production via regenerative agroforestry and land restoration, working with farmers to plant fruit or timber trees alongside their cotton crops. The project was launched on 7 November 2022.

More information

The Alliance is facilitated by a Secretariat hosted by the European Forest Institute. For more information please contact:

Yitagesu Tekle, CBA Coordinator (firstname.lastname @ efi.int)

Image: malp/stock.adobe.com

CBA and LVMH announce major new project

In the context of COP27, the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance and LVMH announce a major new project tackling one of the serious challenges the African continent is facing.

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA), established in 2020 by His Majesty King Charles III, when he was the Prince of Wales, gathering institutional and business actors is developing sustainable cotton production in Africa in a regenerative agroforestry system, which is part of the Great Green Wall project.

In addition to local government and research organizations, this collaboration brings together an exceptional diversity of partners with experience in multiple areas. By participating in this project, the world’s leading luxury group, LVMH, takes a further step in line with its environmental program, LIFE360, and its commitments to regenerative agriculture. This joint effort also includes the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Reforest’Action, European Forest Institute and Pretaterra.

In a region particularly subject to difficult climatic conditions, Lake Chad has shrunk by 90% from 1963 to 2001, and at the current rate of recession could disappear about 20 years from now. Industrial water-intensive cotton production is one of the drivers for this loss.

To address this, the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance’s unique Living Lab in Chad puts forward new sustainable and regenerative methods of cotton production while restoring biodiversity and creating economic opportunities for the local population linked to sustainable cotton value chains. Thanks to the support of LVMH, the Living Lab will be able to focus on regenerative agroforestry and land restoration, working with 500 cotton farmers to plant fruit or timber trees alongside their cotton crops.

Introducing diverse trees into cotton farms helps with soil fertility and water retention, increases biodiversity, and also helps boost income for local farmers. For example, fruit trees like mango and ber can provide both food for the farmer’s personal consumption or be sold in local markets. Some tree species fix nitrogen, providing soil fertilization as well as fodder for livestock. Tall tree species can provide a protective forest cover and reduce evapotranspiration, reducing water requirements.

Working with the local community, the Living Lab will establish community tree nurseries to grow quality planting materials. It also supports access to planting and harvesting equipment, product storage, and sustainable irrigation technologies. At the other end of the process, the Living Lab also aims to improve existing cotton value chains, as well as creating markets for complementary crops like cassava, maize and pepper.

This is a very special project for the CBA as we  demonstrate how the need to decarbonise economic sectors like the fashion industry can act as a catalyst to restore degraded landscapes – turning them into regenerative ones while providing jobs, prosperity and hope to Africa. The climate-poverty-land degradation crisis affecting Africa requires holistic approaches, connecting regenerative landscapes to sustainable markets,” said Circular Bioeconomy Alliance Chair Marc Palahí.

Through its LIFE 360 environmental strategy, LVMH has committed to making the protection of biodiversity and fighting climate change an absolute priority, and to being an exemplary actor of change. LVMH has set the target to implement regenerative agriculture in all strategic supply chains and to preserve 5 million of hectares by 2030. Already supporting regenerative cotton production in Turkey, LVMH is proud to support its new project in Chad to preserve local biodiversity, fight climate change and desertification,” said Hélène Valade, LVMH Environmental Development Director.

A core component of the global work of the IRC is to develop innovative, scalable and resilient solutions with local communities most impacted by the growing climate crisis. We are delighted to be doing just that in Chad in partnership with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance – working together to restore biodiversity, heal degraded soil and strengthen local livelihoods through sustainable and resilient farming solutions. The IRC has seen first-hand the growing toll of climate change across Africa – and the significance of innovative programs like this one for the millions already living with the consequences,” said David Miliband, International Rescue Committee President and CEO.

More information

Download the press release as a pdf

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance was established in 2020 by His Majesty King Charles III (when he was the Prince of Wales). It provides knowledge-informed support as well as a learning and networking platform to connect the dots between investors, companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to advance the circular bioeconomy while restoring biodiversity globally. The European Forest Institute hosts the Secretariat of the Alliance.

Contact: Yitagesu Tekle Tegegne, CBA Coordinator (yitagesu.tekle @ efi.int)
 

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is represented in Wines and Spirits by a portfolio of brands that includes Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Ruinart, Mercier, Château d’Yquem, Domaine du Clos des Lambrays, Château Cheval Blanc, Colgin Cellars, Hennessy, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, Belvedere, Woodinville, Volcán de Mi Tierra, Chandon, Cloudy Bay, Terrazas de los Andes, Cheval des Andes, Cape Mentelle, Newton, Bodega Numanthia, Ao Yun, Château d’Esclans, Château Galoupet and Joseph Phelps. Its Fashion and Leather Goods division includes Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Celine, Loewe, Kenzo, Givenchy, Fendi, Emilio Pucci, Marc Jacobs, Berluti, Loro Piana, RIMOWA, Patou. LVMH is present in the Perfumes and Cosmetics sector with Parfums Christian Dior, Guerlain, Parfums Givenchy, Kenzo Parfums, Perfumes Loewe, Benefit Cosmetics, Make Up For Ever, Acqua di Parma, Fresh, Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Officine Universelle Buly. LVMH’s Watches and Jewelry division comprises Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., TAG Heuer, Chaumet, Zenith, Fred and Hublot. LVMH is also active in selective retailing as well as in other activities through DFS, Sephora, Le Bon Marché, La Samaritaine, Groupe Les Echos, Cova, Le Jardin d’Acclimatation, Royal Van Lent, Belmond and Cheval Blanc hotels.

www.lvmh.com

CBA at royal climate event

Circular Bioeconomy Alliance Chair Marc Palahí will participate in a reception at Buckingham Palace today, hosted by King Charles III ahead of the COP27 Climate Change Conference.

The event will bring together over 200 international business leaders, decision makers and NGOs from across a variety of sectors to discuss climate change and the progress made since COP26. Also attending will be US climate envoy, John Kerry and Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 conference.

Marc said: “This is a great honour for the CBA and EFI to participate in such a high-level event to discuss how forests and the bioeconomy can help to tackle climate change”.

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance was founded by King Charles III in 2020, while still the Prince of Wales. It provides on-the-ground examples of how investing in land restoration can catalyse the development of nature-positive and climate-neutral value chains to decarbonise the economy while supporting local communities.

The CBA will participate in COP27, for example its Living Lab in the Himalayas will be highlighted at the Terra Carta Action Forum event on regenerative fashion on 7 November.

Image: BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com

Building a shared vision in the Sacred Headwaters region of the Amazon

The Sacred Headwaters region in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon is considered one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. It measures 35 million hectares and is home to 600,000 people from more than 30 indigenous nationalities.

In spring 2022, the CBA and Lombard Odier joined the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative on a journey in the region to build a shared vision amongst indigenous peoples, global organisations, governments, philanthropists and investors in protecting the region, tackling industrial scale resource extraction and living in harmony with nature.

Read reflections from Marc Palahí, Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance on his trip to Ecuador

Living Laboratory will be be developed by the indigenous communities with the support of CBA member, Fundación Pachamama and our Living Lab coordinating organization, Reforest´Action. It aims to accelerate landscape restoration in Ecuador and Peru, while creating new forest-based value chains around cocoa, vanilla, medicinal plants and even eco-tourism, financing regenerative landscapes while preserving ancient traditions. The CBA will also support a new school for young indigenous leaders, to build new capacities to scale up restoration work and bio-based business models.

Circular Bioeconomy Alliance welcomes 5 new members

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance is pleased to announce that five new organisations have joined its work to place nature and people at the heart of a global circular bioeconomy.

The new members include: Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network), International Rescue Committee, Lifescaped, Pachamama, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA) was established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2020. The CBA is an action-oriented partnership that connects the dots between investors, companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to advance the circular bioeconomy on the ground while restoring biodiversity globally.

The CBA’s activities include its global network of Living Labs for Nature, People and Planet which use landscape restoration projects as the starting point to catalyse the development of circular bioeconomy value chains while restoring biodiversity and local livelihoods.

The diversity of new members reflects the nature of the Alliance, which includes large and small intergovernmental organizations, companies, investors, research organizations and NGOs, who provide expertise and implement projects in areas related to the circular bioeconomy.

More information

The Alliance is facilitated by a Secretariat hosted by the European Forest Institute. For more information please contact:

Yitagesu Tekle, CBA Coordinator (firstname.lastname @ efi.int)

Image: Deemerwha studio / AdobeStock.com

HRH The Prince of Wales launches restoration of forest landscapes in Romania

  • HRH The Prince of Wales launches restoration of forest landscapes in Romania by his Circular Bioeconomy Alliance
  • Europe’s largest cross border forest restoration project launched
  • New science-policy study on forest biodiversity published

Leading scientists, experts and practitioners met in Sibiu, Romania on 30 May to launch Europe’s largest cross border forest restoration project. The ThinkForest science-policy event celebrated a growing movement to restore forest biodiversity and advance the circular bioeconomy, for the benefit of people and the planet.

The event was opened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who the same day launched a landscape restoration project in the Carpathian mountains, funded by his Circular Bioeconomy Alliance and developed in collaboration with the Horizon 2020 project SUPERB.

The Romanian Minister of Environment, Waters and Forests Barna Tánczos joined HRH for the opening of the event.

His Royal Highness emphasised in his opening speech that we have to rethink our economy if we want to rewrite our future. We need a circular bioeconomy, investing in three mutually reinforcing areas: biodiversity, innovation and local and indigenous communities. The rest of the world can learn from the way Romania has relied on regenerative approaches to create rich landscapes in areas such as Transylvania, where man lives in harmony with nature.

The ThinkForest event also marked the launch of the 20m euro Horizon 2020 project, SUPERB, coordinated by the European Forest Institute. The project involves more than 100 forest science and practice organizations in 20 different countries and includes 12 large-scale forest restoration demonstration sites across Europe. One of the sites is located in the Romanian Carpathian mountains.

Marc Palahí, European Forest Institute Director and chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance said: “Scientific collaboration is crucial to scale up successfully forest restoration in Europe in a context of rapid environmental changes and increasing demands on our forests. I am proud of EFI´s leadership in bringing together some of the leading scientists and practitioners in Europe to demonstrate why and how we can restore forest landscapes for different purposes and benefits.”

A new EFI science-policy study on Forest Biodiversity in Europe was also presented at the event. Written by a group of distinguished scientists from 10 European countries, the study provides policymakers as well as forest and landscape managers with a better understanding of the complex subject of biodiversity in the context of European forests.

More information

ThinkForest is a European high-level discussion and information-sharing forum on the future of forests. ThinkForest is facilitated by the European Forest Institute, an independent, science-based international organization. More information: https://www.efi.int

SUPERB ‘Systemic solutions for upscaling of urgent ecosystem restoration for forest-related biodiversity and ecosystem services’ is a four-year, 20 million euro, EU-funded Horizon 2020 project, with 36 project partners and over 90 associate project partners. More information: https://efi.int/projects/superb-systemic-solutions-upscaling-urgent-ecosystem-restoration-forest-related 

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance was established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2020. It provides knowledge-informed support as well as a learning and networking platform to connect the dots between investors, companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to advance the circular bioeconomy while restoring biodiversity globally.

Read the full text of HRH The Prince of Wales speech

For more information: Rach Colling, Head of Communications, European Forest Institute,

A new economy powered by life: a circular bioeconomy

Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance Marc Palahí reflects on the opportunities offered by the circular bioeconomy

The multidimensional and mutually accelerating crises that are converging today – climate, biodiversity and health – are the consequences of the same fundamental problem: our economic system. It is a system addicted to fossil resources and to growth at all costs, that has failed to value our most important capital and the basis for human health and wellbeing: Nature.

Now we have arrived at a tipping point characterized by the unparalleled alteration of our biosphere, upon which humanity depends. We need to rethink our economy if we want to rewrite our future on time.

We fundamentally need a new economy, where life – remember that bio- means life! – and not consumption becomes its true engine and purpose. A new economy that prospers in harmony with nature but at the same time is powered by nature. This is not a contradiction but a necessary condition to create a circular bioeconomy. Because above all a circular bioeconomy is about reconnecting humanity, nature and the environment as a basis for a sustainable future.

A circular bioeconomy is about restoring and sustainably managing our biological systems to produce in a synergistic way food, energy, ecosystem services and biobased solutions to decarbonize our economy while generating jobs and prosperity. Doing this also requires us to recognize and invest in biodiversity as its true engine. Biodiversity is a prerequisite for life to adapt and evolve in a changing environment – and a bioeconomy is an economy that ultimately relies on life and its diversity.

The circular bioeconomy is also an opportunity to holistically rethink our land, food and energy systems while simultaneously transforming key industrial sectors and their value chains to become circular and carbon neutral. The beauty of biological resources is that, if managed wisely and sustainably, they are renewable and circular by nature. This is why biobased solutions are key to decarbonize our economy and make it circular.

Forests are central in transitioning to a circular bioeconomy. Not only because they are our main biological infrastructure, our largest terrestrial carbon sink and main host for biodiversity, but also because they are the main source of non-food non-feed biological resources. With emerging science knowledge and new technologies these resources can be transformed into a new range of wood and non-wood based solutions that can replace and environmentally outperform fossil products in sectors like construction, textiles, chemicals, transport or packaging.

For instance we can now produce a new generation of sustainable low carbon textile fibres with a carbon footprint six times lower than polyester, without generating the problem of microplastics because they are biodegradable. We can also produce a new generation of wood engineering products to replace steel and concrete at scale – two materials whose production is responsible for more than 12% of the carbon emissions globally. Using wood in building construction not only reduces the carbon footprint of our cities compared to using concrete and steel but it can also transform cities into a carbon storage infrastructure. Every cubic metre of wood products we use in our buildings stores a ton of CO2.

Over the last few decades Europe has invested substantially in forest science, technology and innovation and industrial forest-based sector development. This explains why the European Union, which hosts 4% of the world forests, is responsible for more than 40% of the global forest products export value. In comparison, Brazil hosts 12% of the world forests but is only responsible for about 4% of the global export value. Africa as a continent harvests 54% more wood than the EU, but the export value of the products made is 17 times less than that of the EU: 6 billion dollars versus 100 billion dollars. This is because 90% of the wood harvested in Africa is used for low efficient energy. This demonstrates the great potential for transcontinental collaboration to increase the climate mitigation impact of the wood-based solutions we are generating, while also increasing the economic value and jobs attached to them. At the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance we are demonstrating on the ground how restoring landscapes, investing in biodiversity and innovation can create new value chains that economically and environmentally outperform fossil-based value chains.

Over the next two decades we need to put forward the greatest economic transformation in human history, due to the scale and speed of change required to achieve a climate-neutral, inclusive and nature positive economy. This is an unprecedented global challenge but it is also the greatest opportunity to rethink our economy and create a better world for future generations.

Forests and the forest-based circular bioeconomy are crucial to catalyse the radical change that the world needs. Unlocking their potential requires working together across disciplines and sectors to develop transformative insetting strategies rather than focusing on offsetting tactics.

Further reading

Palahí, et al. 2020. Investing in Nature as the true engine of our economy: A 10-point Action Plan for a Circular Bioeconomy of Wellbeing. Knowledge to Action 02, European Forest Institute. https://doi.org/10.36333/k2a02

Hetemäki, L., Palahí, M. and Nasi, R. 2020. Seeing the wood in the forests. Knowledge to Action 1, European Forest Institute. https://doi.org/10.36333/k2a01

Image: billionphotos.com/AdobeStock

Circular bioeconomy highlighted at XV World Forestry Congress

A special session on ‘The contribution of a forest circular bioeconomy to sustainable development’ was organised on 5 May at the XV World Forestry Congress by the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance. The event was organised in partnership with the European Forest Institute, the Center for International Forestry ResearchWorld Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The event showcased the key contributions that the forest sector provides to the sustainable circular bioeconomy, bringing together perspectives from the public and private sector, academia and civil society, and from various geographical regions and contexts. Speakers included both policymakers, such as Minister Lee White, Minister of Water, Forests, the Sea, and Environment who spoke about the opportunities for the circular bioeconomy in Gabon, and CEOs from sustainable wood-based industry, who reflected on new innovative fields for wood products such as bamboo and cosmetics.

CBA Chair Marc Palahí set the scene, and explained that the circular bioeconomy is an opportunity to holistically rethink our land, food and energy systems to catalyse the change that industrial sectors need to become circular and carbon neutral. Over the next decades we need to put forward the greatest economic transformation in human history to move towards a climate-neutral, inclusive and nature-positive economy. “A forest-based circular bioeconomy is not just “another solution” it needs to be seen as a catalyst for changing and inspiring change in a number of sectors through insetting strategies rather than reactive offsetting tactics”, he said.

CBA members at the World Forestry Congress. Left to right: Yitagesu Tekle, EFI; Mokena Makeka, Dahlberg Advisors; Candice Taylor, New Forest Company; Stéphane Hallaire, Reforest’Action; Vicente Guallart, IAAC; Nicolas Blain, Reforest’Action

CBA Living Lab Coordinator Stéphane Hallaire explored further how to make the circular bioeconomy and restoration mainstream. He explained how the CBA Living Labs develop circular bioeconomy value chains while restoring biodiversity and local livelihoods.

More information

Speakers and programme https://programme.wfc2021korea.org/en/session/2770139f-2ea5-ec11-a99b-a04a5e7d3e1c

Rewatch the video of the session

(watch also in French | Spanish | Korean )

Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

The Amazon basin: two worlds colliding

Marc Palahí, Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance reflects on his recent trip to Ecuador

The Amazon basin is witnessing, like no other place on the planet, the collision of two worlds: a dying world, characterized by an extractive and fossil economy that is addicted to growth at all costs and which fails to value our most important capital, nature… and an ancient world, centered around nature and life, the indigenous world which not only portrays the past but also leads us to the future.

In March I had the opportunity to visit Ecuador´s Amazon region on behalf of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance; a truly transformative experience. I had the pleasure to be accompanied by my CBA colleagues Stephane Hallaire (Reforest’Action) and Laure Gay (Lombard Odier) and guided by Atossa Soltani from the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative and colleagues from indigenous organizations such as COICA and CONFENIAE. My first day in the region, though, was a very depressing one. I was brought by a group of local indigenous people to see the impacts of illegal gold mining along the river Napo, near the town of Tena.

Extractive gold mining operations have led to a lunar landscape, a level of destruction I had not seen before. The local communities living nearby still do not have access to clean water and were also suffering from many consequences derived from months of co-existence with illegal mining workers. The mining activities seemed to me to not only suck the life out of nature but also from the people.

I talked with an old lady who was very upset, and who wanted to tell me how indigenous ancient goldmining was sustainable and respectful as it followed the rhythms of nature. How was this possible, I asked, given gold is a non-renewable material? I could not see how sustainability and natural cycles could be brought into the equation. She explained that indigenous communities only collected gold when the rivers rise after the rains. This was the moment to collect gold with a minimum of human intervention with the help of natural cycles.

Unfortunately what I saw in Tena is not the exception but rather common, as the mining and oil industries are a main driver of deforestation in Ecuador and one of the main threats to indigenous communities.

Fortunately, the following day, I had the opportunity to see another world, a world full of life and respect for nature, a world of the past that should inspire the future too.  After an hour on a very small plane we landed in the community of Sharamentsa on the river Pastaza. I spent several days living with the Achuar along the river Pastaza, and it was inspirational to see the sacred respect they have for nature, as well as for the things that truly matter.

Every day we woke up at 3 am to drink guayusa, a herbal tea prepared with the leaves of guayusa tree (Ilex guayusa), which has been drunk since ancient times in the Amazon due to its health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. During the guayusa ceremony we shared the dreams we had the previous night and discussed them collectively. The guayusa ceremony is also used by the Achuar and other indigenous communities to purify and energize their bodies.

Another fascinating part of the morning is when the Achuar paint their faces with natural inks that last for one day. They paint their faces according to their mood but also depending on their purpose for the day. The process requires meditating and reflecting before starting the activities of the day.[1] These two morning rituals mean that Achuar people have already invested several hours communicating and reflecting on their dreams, feelings and purpose for the day. In my view, a great investment!

Walking the Amazon rainforest is very special, but doing so in the company of indigenous people is a holistic experience that allows you to witness the profound connection that humans can establish with nature, being part of it, living in harmony with it, shaping it and in turn being shaped by it. Such harmony requires an important ability that indigenous communities have and that in many respects we have lost in the modern world: the ability to transform knowledge into wisdom.

The indigenous knowledge and wisdom about the Amazon forest is the result of more than 12,000 years of sustainable co-existence. This makes the Amazon basin one of the world´s best examples in terms of agrobiodiversity, domestication of plants, and human symbiosis with natural ecosystems resulting in the distribution of particular plants positive for human health and wellbeing. During my stay in the Amazon, I could see that forests for indigenous communities are not only their pharmacies, groceries and workshop but they are also their healing, meditation and spiritual refuge. Almost every tree and plant seemed to have a specific use (knowledge) for them, which is the basis for their sacred respect to biodiversity and nature (wisdom).     

I have conducted research on forests and the circular bioeconomy for twenty years, and have talked in many public events about it. I must admit that I have never seen so clearly before what I really mean when I say circular bioeconomy: an economy powered by nature that prospers in harmony with nature. While I am conscious that we cannot all live the way indigenous communities live in the Amazon, we can still rethink many of our values and economic guiding principles to reconcile knowledge and wisdom, the ancient and the future, nature and humanity. The climate, biodiversity and “values” crises we are facing are not different crises, just different consequences of the same problem: our profound disconnection with nature, and therefore with our own selves.

The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world. More than 10% of the known plant and animal species coexist there. Today, this ecosystem of over 7 million square kilometres is threatened by deforestation, fires, mining, oil and gas development, large dams for hydroelectric generation and illegal invasions. What I saw in the Amazon is a collision of two worlds – which is resulting in the destruction of the future. The “modern world” is in many ways destroying the Amazon, but what happens in the Amazon will put at risk the future of the world.

Boulton and colleagues argue that three-quarters of the Amazon rainforests have lost resilience since 2000, meaning the forest is losing its ability to recover after droughts and other disturbances. This loss of resilience has profound implications for biodiversity, carbon storage and climate change at a global scale.

Deforestation and climate change, via increasing dry-season length and drought frequency, may already have pushed the Amazon close to a critical threshold of rainforest dieback. Already in the 1970s, Brazilian scientists Salati and colleagues demonstrated that not only is vegetation the consequence of climate, but also that vegetation can influence the climate. They scientifically showed that the Amazon generates approximately half of its own rainfall by recycling moisture 5 to 6 times, as airmasses move from the Atlantic across the basin to the west. Moisture from the Amazon is also important for rainfall and human wellbeing because it contributes to winter rainfall for parts of the La Plata basin, especially southern Paraguay, southern Brazil, Uruguay and central-eastern Argentina; in other regions, the moisture passes over the area, but does not precipitate out.

This brings us to the key question that Lovejoy and Nobre asked themselves a few years ago: where might the tipping point be for deforestation-generated degradation of the hydrological cycle? The first model to examine this question back in 2007 showed that at about 40% deforestation, central, southern and eastern Amazonia would experience diminished rainfall and a lengthier dry season, predicting a shift to savanna vegetation to the east. However, Lovejoy and Nobre believed that a tipping point for the Amazon system to flip to non-forest ecosystems in eastern, southern and central Amazonia could be reached at 20-25% deforestation and therefore it is urgent not only curb further deforestation, but also restore forests to create a margin of safety, by reducing the deforested area to less than 20%.

In this context, one of the main purposes of my trip to Ecuador as Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance was to launch a transformative initiative – a Living Laboratory to be developed by the indigenous communities with the support of our new member, Fundación Pachamama and our Living Lab coordinating organization, Reforest´Action. It aims to accelerate landscape restoration in Ecuador and Peru, while creating new forest-based value chains around cocoa, vanilla, medicinal plants and even eco-tourism, financing regenerative landscapes while preserving ancient traditions. The CBA will also support a new school for young indigenous leaders, to build new capacities to scale up restoration work and bio-based business models.

My trip ended with my participation in the COICA (coordinating organization for indigenous communities of the Amazon) congress taking place in Quito on 13 March, where I could share my reflections on the need to build new partnerships between the scientific community and the indigenous communities to better understand, monitor and manage many of the most precious primary forests in our planet.

Read a short version of this blog in Spanish (via El Confidencial): El Amazonas: dos mundos en grave peligro de colisión

Further reading

Lovejoy, T. E. & Nobre, C. Amazon tipping point. Sci. Adv. 4, eaat2340 (2018) https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aat2340

E. Salati, A. Dall ‘Ollio, E. Matsui, J. R. Gat, Recycling of Water in the Amazon, Brazil: an isotopic study. Water Resour. Res. 15, 1250–1258 (1979).

Boulton, C.A., Lenton, T.M. & Boers, N. Pronounced loss of Amazon rainforest resilience since the early 2000s. Nat. Clim. Chang. 12, 271–278 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01287-8

G. Sampaio,C. A. Nobre, M. H. Costa, P. Satyamurty, B. S. Soares-Filho, M. Cardoso, Regional climate change over eastern Amazonia caused by pasture and soybean cropland expansion. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L17709 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GL030612

Nabuurs, GJ., Harris, N., Sheil, D., Palahí, M., Chirici, G., Boissière, M., Fay, C., Reiche, J., Valbuena, R. Glasgow forest declaration needs new modes of data ownership. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01343-3


[1] C. G. Jung would certainly have found a good explanation of the importance of the paintings in creating the persona – the social face or masks we use to relate to others or to conceal the true nature of the individual.