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Turning Cattle Ranches into Forest


Collage by Israel Vargas. Courtesy of The Verge.

In a new article in The Verge, “They Turned Cattle Ranches into Tropical Forest – Then Climate Change Hit,” Science reporter Justine Calma highlights the work of Costa Rican conservationists, as well as Dan Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, and colleagues in Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG), who “brought forests back to life in Costa Rica.” ACG, she writes, “...is a success story, a powerful example of what can happen when humans help forests heal.” But, she adds, there is a more insidious threat facing these restoring forests. “Climate change,” she says, “has come to the ACG, marking a new, troubling chapter in the park’s comeback story.” The dry season is about two months longer than when Dan arrived in Costa Rica in the 1960s; climate change is making seasons more unpredictable and weather more erratic everywhere. The forest is changing, the article notes, faster than Dan, Winnie, and other researchers can document. “There’s not much to do about it except to stop climate change and deforestation, they say, and keep on with their work of restoring the landscape,” Calma writes. She quotes María Marta Chavarría, ACG’s field investigation program coordinator, who says last year the ocean water was so hot it felt like jumping in soup; corals were bleaching and dying. “This is really hard for me being here, documenting this. Sometimes I want to cry.” When things get rough, Calma writes, “Chavarría heads to a lookout point where she can see the hectares of forest below that she’s helped to revive. It reminds her of what’s possible.” You can read this thoughtful history of how ACG came to be and the new challenge of restoring ecosystems in a warming world here.