Tropical forests could be reborn with coffee grounds

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Tropical forests are natural environments constantly endangered by deforestation, drought and other consequences due to global warming and anthropogenic activities of various kinds. A team of scientists, however, may have found a particular fertilizer to make them fertile and thriving again in a short time: the coffee grounds, a material full of antioxidants and that can also be reused in agriculture.

Degraded land that becomes forest

The study was conducted by a group of researchers from the Federal Polyclinic of Zurich and the University of Hawaii. The researchers selected an area of 35 x 40 meters of degraded agricultural land in the tropical forest in southern Costa Rica, covering it with a half-meter layer of coffee grounds. Then, as a control, they chose another similar area, which was cultivated with more conventional fertilizers. After only two years, the area treated with coffee grounds has totally transformed, becoming almost all green: 80% was covered with vegetation . As regards the control area, however, the green percentage dropped to 20%: “The area treated with a thick layer of coffee grounds turned into a small forest in just two years, ”said Dr Rebecca Cole, lead author of the study.

A promising discovery

Still after two years, the earth’s nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus were significantly more concentrated in the area treated with the coffee leftovers. The half-meter layer of the material deriving from the famous drink eliminated the invasive grasses of the pastures that made the land unusable: their removal allowed native tree species (born thanks to the seeds deposited by the wind) to colonize the area quickly. Experts have called this discovery very promising, given that the old agricultural lands of tropical forests are highly degraded, which could lead to a progressive disappearance of these natural oases. Coffee grounds are extremely easy to find, considering the enormous quantities of espresso, americano and so on that are prepared every day around the world. That is why a similar material can be the basis for an affordable and sustainable tropical forest restoration strategy.

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