2020: Highlighting the Importance of Nature-Based Solutions
Over one million people have died from COVID-19 across the world, with a greater number of lives and livelihoods disrupted. With many ecologists long stating the correlation between deforestation and fragmentation of landscapes with an increased risk of pandemics, the devastating impact of COVID-19 has highlighted, more than ever, the need to re-evaluate our relationship with the natural world. In particular, nature-based solutions could play an important role in the fight against climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss which have all contributed to the spread of infectious diseases. Here we discuss the role of bamboo as an important nature-based solution.
Defining nature-based solutions
So what do we mean by nature-based solutions? The European Commission defines them as “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience”. They further emphasise that these solutions must “benefit biodiversity and support the delivery of a range of ecosystem services.” (you can read their full definition here).
The benefits of bamboo
With over 30 million hectares of bamboo across the world, this highly versatile and fast-growing plant has a wide variety of environmental, social and economic benefits, including:
1. Fighting climate change
Carbon dioxide is a primary cause of global warming, due to its role in trapping heat and raising the earth’s average temperature. Bamboo absorbs more carbon dioxide and is said to release 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than the same amount of hardwood trees. In fact, bamboo can absorb up to 12 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year - giving it great potential to help stabilise our atmosphere!
Thanks to its versatility, bamboo can also act as a substitute for wood for nearly every application, including paper, furniture, flooring, scaffolding and more. It, therefore, enables a transition away from a total reliance on hardwood acquired by deforestation, which produces 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
2. Land restoration
Thanks to its many biological characteristics, bamboo can also play an important role in land restoration. Its extensive root system allows it to control floods, prevent erosions and grow in “poor soils” and land that is unfit for other crops, giving it great potential for restoring degraded lands. It is also one of the fastest-growing plants in the world - with reported rates of up to 1 metre per day for some species - enabling it to quickly restore productivity to damaged landscapes.
3. Creating stable livelihoods
Bamboo grows locally in some of the world’s poorest communities in the world. Due to its fast-growing properties, bamboo can be harvested every 3 to 5 years, providing a source of short-term profitability and stable income for many rural communities. It is also more lightweight, making it easier to process for farmers - especially women.