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.