Cloud forest conservation through carbon funding

Set in the cloud forests of Honduras, Cusuco National Park was recently ranked the world’s 123rd most irreplaceable protected area; increased to 48th for threatened species, and 25th for threatened amphibians. But despite this extraordinary natural value, the park is under severe threat from deforestation and illegal hunting. Using extensive data collected over 10+ years, The Wallacea Trust is preparing a $70 million application for Natural Forest Standard (NFS) funding to protect the park’s stunning forests and biodiversity by developing local income streams and ecotourism.

Current funding requirements: £150,000 to complete application and allow carbon sales to begin

"Long term income from carbon credits will bring the financial support needed to protect this vital planetray resource for future generations"

Colin Bennett, Trustee

Natural Forest Standard (NFS) allows long-term funding to be obtained for the protection of forests, based on selling their carbon credits to the private sector. Similar to the government-level REDD+ scheme, NFS links the amount of carbon stored in a forest to the level of biodiversity it supports. In other words, the more carbon a forest stores, and the more species that live there, the more valuable it becomes. Value is further increased by the number of endemic species (species unique to the area) and threatened species living in the forest, and by its risk of deforestation. A forest at low risk is given a lower value, which helps direct funds towards the most vulnerable forests.

For over 10 years, large teams of scientists and students have been visiting Cusuco National Park with our partner organisation Operation Wallacea. Before their arrival, 376 species of plants and animals were known to exist in the park. As of 2015, that number had risen to 1,532, including a large number of endemic and threatened species. These teams have also been collecting the forest structure data needed to calculate carbon storage. Having donated all this information to The Wallacea Trust, we have been partnering with Queens University Belfast to produce a formal application to NFS. Based on their calculations on risk of deforestation, biological value and carbon storage, we estimate the current value of Cusuco National Park to be $3.5 million per year.

The Wallacea Trust is now finalising the NFS application, based on selling the carbon credits of Cusuco for 20 years. This would bring approximately $70 million to the park during this time. This money would be used to develop sustainable ecotourism to the park, as well as providing micro financing options to local communities to develop their own income streams. Some of the money would also be used as cascade funding to establish replica projects in other forests throughout Honduras. Before the carbon credits can be sold, however, our application needs to be formally audited at a cost of £150,000, so that it can be included in the portfolio of NFS projects.

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