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Coffee Supercharges Trees

Forests with a caffeine habit recover four times quicker, ecologists say.

What happens when you dump 30 trucks full of coffee waste on land set aside for reforestation? Well, the forest recovers a heck of a lot faster, according to a study based in Costa Rica.

Researchers spread coffee pulp, a waste product of coffee production, across old agricultural land measuring 35m x 40m. The plot recovered four times faster than a control area. Talk about a caffeine boost!

“The results were dramatic,” said Dr Rebecca Cole from the University of Hawaii, lead author of the study. “The area treated with a thick layer of coffee pulp turned into a small forest in only two years while the control plot remained dominated by non-native pasture grasses.”

Working with collaborators from the Swiss research university ETH-Zurich, Cole’s team spread a layer of coffee pulp half a metre thick across the entire area. This eliminated the invasive grass species, allowing native trees to recolonise quickly, their seeds spread by wind and animal dispersal.

After two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had 80 percent canopy cover compared to 20 percent in the control area. The trees in the coffee pulp area were also four times taller and there were significantly higher levels of nutrients in the soil, including carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.

This bodes very well for the planet's tree planting ambitions.


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