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05 May 2023

Secret behind Amazonian ‘dark earth’ could help speed up forest restoration across the globe

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Researchers from Brazil showed that Amazonian dark earth (ADE), soils enriched by Amerindian people thousands of years ago, increases the establishment and growth of seedlings of tree species important for reforestation. By copying the composition of ADE, especially its microbes, reforestation in Brazil and elsewhere could be sped up Between approximately 450 BCE and 950 CE, millions of Amerindian people living in today’s Amazonia transformed the originally poor soil through various processes. Over many human generations, soils were enriched with charcoal from their low-intensity fires for cooking and burning refuse, animal bones, broken pottery, compost, and manure. The result is Amazonian dark earth (ADE) or terra preta, exceptionally fertile because rich in nutrients and stable organic matter derived from charcoal, which gives it its black color. Now, scientists from Brazil show that ADE could be a ‘secret weapon’ to boost reforestation – not only in the Amazon, where 18% or approximately 780,000 km2 has been lost since the 1970s – but around the world. The results are published in Frontiers in Soil Science. “Here we show that the use of ADEs can enhance the growth of pasture and trees due to their high levels […]