< NEBinspired Home

Pioneering High-Altitude Reforestation with Reforest the Tropics and New England Biolabs®

Posted on Sunday, April 21, 2024

By Joanne Gibson, Ph.D.


In an era where climate change poses a formidable challenge, innovative environmental initiatives are critical. About five years ago, New England Biolabs (NEB) initiated efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. This journey led us to a partnership with Reforest the Tropics (RTT), a pioneering organization in reforestation. Together, we've collaborated on projects in Costa Rica to offset our carbon emissions while contributing to biodiversity conservation and community engagement. This initiative underscores our ongoing commitment to making decisions that protect the environment and preserve the planet for future generations.


A Closer Look at RTT’s Carbon-Capture-Focused Reforestation Methods

In Costa Rica, the reforestation projects led by RTT deploy a unique model to maximize carbon capture. Central to this model is the use of Araucaria hunsteinii (Klinki), a non-native tropical conifer. Introduced to Costa Rica in the 1960s, Klinki has been entirely naturalized in the region and is recognized as a noninvasive species. Known for its high carbon sequestration capability, the tree's narrow crown allows dense planting, maximizing carbon capture potential per hectare. Besides its environmental benefits, Klinki has been shown to positively contribute to the biodiversity in local ecosystems, augmenting the overall ecological balance.

Our collaborative venture with RTT spans 200 hectares across six distinct sites in Costa Rica. Each location is strategically chosen to contribute to the project's overall environmental goals while also respecting the land's historical and cultural significance. Five of the sites comprise a blend of 30+ different tree species, including Klinki and Eucalyptus, along with 28 native species, which supports both biodiversity and efficient carbon capture. Eucalyptus, the other non-native species, serves an economic purpose by providing early income generation for farms. This species is strategically phased out over 15 years, at which point the forest is projected to generate income for the farmer from other sources. At the largest NEB site in Costa Rica, which spans 71 hectares, a significant portion of the property (16 hectares) is devoted to wildlife conservation. This area is planted with a variety of fruit trees, such as bananas, apples, guava, and avocado, to create a habitat conducive to supporting local fauna, including jaguars, macaws, toucans, and endangered tapirs, thus reinforcing the project's commitment to biodiversity alongside carbon capture.


RTT is Exploring New Heights for Klinki

The smallest and most recent addition to our collaboration with RTT is primarily a research project. At Finca La Lucha, RTT is planting Klinki trees at a higher elevation - close to 2000 meters (about 6560 feet), significantly surpassing the previously documented limit of 1700 meters (about 5580 feet). This decision is grounded in RTT’s extensive experience with Klinki, which has led them to challenge and aim to revise existing literature. Their assumption is that Klinki can thrive even at these elevated altitudes. To ensure robustness in carbon capture potential, the project strategically integrates another tropical conifer native to Costa Rica, the Ciprés (Cupressus lusitanica), known for its high-altitude growth and carbon sequestration ability. This approach creates a unique forestry design, alternating lines of Klinki and Ciprés with various other species, forming a rich collage of biodiversity.

At the elevated Finca La Lucha site, biodiversity is somewhat constrained by the altitude; while the original design planned for ten species, they ultimately settled on eight. This level of diversity, though lower than the 30+ species used in lower elevation projects, remains quite significant for such altitudes.

The project so far, which was planted in 2022, is showing a slower growth rate than lower elevations, which is not alarming when Klinki's initial slow growth pattern is considered – typically, Klinki trees take several years to establish themselves before experiencing rapid growth around the eighth year. The current observation is that the Klinki trees are successfully established. The only concern RTT has noted so far is windburn, but it is anticipated that the Ciprés tree, being more acclimatized, might offer protection to Klinki, shielding it from harsh winds.

RTT measures the success of their projects by quantifying carbon sequestration, with metric tons of carbon capture as the unit of measure. However, in a project's infancy, evaluations observe the growth patterns. Despite the challenges of windburn and slower growth, RTT expects the coniferous species, Ciprés and Klinki, to eventually surpass the growth of the broadleaf species planted alongside them. They are expected to achieve the minimum goal of 500 metric tons of carbon per hectare, slightly lower than the 600-650 metric tons achieved at lower elevations.

By pioneering the growth of Klinki at uncharted altitudes, RTT is testing the limits of ecological restoration and expanding our understanding of carbon sequestration potential and biodiversity conservation.


Greg Powell, Executive Director of Reforest The Tropics, observes the growth of Klinki (Araucaria hunsteinii) at Finca La Lucha


Building a Legacy of Sustainability and Collaboration

As we look to the future, we hope that the NEB-RTT partnership in Costa Rica demonstrates the power of collaborative efforts to tackle environmental challenges. It highlights how scientific innovation, environmental responsibility, and community engagement can synergistically lead to sustainable solutions. At NEB, we believe in the power of science and innovation to drive positive change. As we continue to navigate the complexities of environmental conservation, we remain committed to exploring new frontiers in environmental stewardship and sharing our experiences with the global community. Together with RTT and local communities, NEB is proud to contribute to a more sustainable, carbon-neutral future.


As we reflect on the enduring impact of Reforest the Tropics, we honor the memory of its visionary founder, Herster Barres. Herster's dedication to sustainability through reforestation in Costa Rica has left a lasting legacy. For more insights into Reforest the Tropics, we invite you to listen to our previous podcast featuring a conversation with Herster.

Listen to the Podcast

NEB will not rent, sell or otherwise transfer your data to a third party for monetary consideration. See our Privacy Policy for details. View our Community Guidelines.

Products and content are covered by one or more patents, trademarks and/or copyrights owned or controlled by New England Biolabs, Inc (NEB). The use of trademark symbols does not necessarily indicate that the name is trademarked in the country where it is being read; it indicates where the content was originally developed. See www.neb.com/trademarks. The use of these products may require you to obtain additional third-party intellectual property rights for certain applications. For more information, please email busdev@neb.com.

Don’t miss out on our latest NEBinspired blog releases!

Be a part of NEBinspired! Submit your idea to have it featured in our blog.