Using micro-organisms in reforestation. A masterclass by Bernd Neugebauer, August 31–September 1 in Lilleoru, Estonia
Bernd Neugebauer, an expert on sustainable forestry and silvi-culture, is back in Lilleoru to share how to use microorganisms to restore forests.
Bernd is one of the very few in the world who has succeeded in restoring a mature rainforest community - on a deforested land on the Yucatan Peninsula. By the late 1960s, the deforestation of Yucatan’s high rainforests concluded, leaving behind a green but highly degraded mass of lesser trees on depleting soils. Ecologists estimated that it would take 600 years for the restoration of a mature rainforest community solely through natural mechanisms.
So how did Bernd do it?
“Some decades ago, it was recognized in forestry that fungi are in contact with the roots of trees and help the trees to get nutrients from the soil. This phenomenon was called mycorrhiza but was not much further investigated. Some time later, however, it was discovered that there is a much more extensive network of fungi and many other microorganisms that together constitute a major communication system in the forest: that trees communicate over long distances, they "listen" to conversations between their neighbors - and it is through fungi, bacteria and lactic acids that they understand each other."
“Figuratively speaking, thanks to its rich array of microorganisms, the forest can sing and dance (as far as it can), and it is the communication that defines forest as their home,” explains Bernd.
“If you think this is an exaggeration, I will share my experience with you. It was generally believed that the restoration of the rainforest would have to develop through the forest succession, one group of trees follow the other over time. While the evolution of each community takes years (and even longer in temperate forests), and these communities need to alternate several times before the largest and most majestic trees can finally thrive - they give the forest its special vertical structure. In Yucatan, these are Mahogany (Swietenia app) and Zapote-trees (Manilkara zapota).
The Mexican Forestry Authority has planted mahogany for decades to restore the rainforests. Their work has had little fruits as only one to two of every 100 trees survived, with a stable community around them - none of these can be called a forest.
In Chan Ká Vergel we simply started collecting as many rainforest microorganisms as possible, multiplied them massively and sprayed them on the soil. Then we started planting mahogany trees.”
The photos show how beautiful these trees are and how rich the soil around them is only 25 years from then. The ground vegetation continuously augments its diversity, and coffee and cocoa also grow here. Trees are over 25m high and 60cm in diameter after only 24 years. (Photos: Kerttu Sarapuu, Gaia Academy)
“The real thrill, however, is that the same microorganisms are found to be working in our bodies. Our own health follows the same principles and with the substances gathered from our newly built forests we have started healing people most effectively”.
Topics of the master-class:
- What is a forest? / If we were the forest ourselves?
- Soil as a product of micro-organisms
- The forest as an information network
- Practical training: preparation of microorganisms
- The role of biochar and nanotechnology in forest regeneration
- Forest products
- Mayan sustainable design
- The importance of community in sustainable forest management
- Scientific background / silvi-culture
The central aim of the course is to learn about the functioning of forests, to use this knowledge to restore forests, improve the health of forests and people.
Bernd Neugebauer: “We are in the business of creating a real forest - mentoring, guiding, supporting and going through a process that is inherent in nature but very close to us, similar to who we are. The creation of the forest really starts with the question of how to shape the systems around us so that they also support the spiritual development of man, how to shape the social patterns, what the structure of the community must be. We are also exploring suitable forestry and silvicultural technologies and working on strategies for these. Our goal is true sustainability: using local resources to create abundance and biodiversity.”
About the teacher:
With a PhD in forestry, Bernd is an expert in sustainable forestry with a wealth of experience. Over five generations, Bernd’s family has planted more than 3 trillion trees in Germany alone. His family played a big role in the fact that Germany was able to restore its forests so quickly after two devastating wars.
In 1992, he established his roots in the Yucatan Peninsula. For many years, he has worked with the Mayans of the Yucatan to explore and revitalize their indigenous culture and traditional practices, now also passing it on to the younger generations . With him, the Mayans have rediscovered old and time-resistant technologies that are very appropriate to the Yucatan environment. Bernd is also a co-founder of the German Forest Stewardship Council established in 1995.
Bernd Neugebauer: “Building a new relationship with forest as healers and stewards” - workshop at the European Ecovillage Conference 2018 “The Wisdom of Conscious Communities” in Lilleoru, Estonia
The course is organized by MTÜ Lilleoru in cooperation with Gaia Academy. Please see also the following course on 7-8 September by Albert Bates "The Future of Biochar – Traditional and Innovative Uses".