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The site remained untouched and largely unexplored for over a decade. A sign has been placed to allow future researchers to locate and study it.

16 years later, Janzen sent graduate student Timothy Treuer to search for the site where the food waste had been dumped.

Treuer first set out to locate the large sign that marked the plot – and failed.

The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

“It’s a huge sign, with bright yellow letters. We should have been able to see it,” says Treuer. After wandering for half an hour without success, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the ground.

When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was stunned. Compared to the adjacent former barren pastures, the site of the food waste dump was “like day and night.”


The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastures (R).

Photo by Leland Werden.

“It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a pile of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems,” he explains.

The area was so thick with vegetation that he still couldn’t find the sign.

Treuer and a team of researchers from Princeton University studied the site over the next three years.

The results, published in the journal “Restoration Ecology”, highlight the extent to which discarded fruit parts have contributed to the region’s recovery.

Ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of ​​former pasture located directly across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades earlier. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single tree species, the orange peel deposit site featured two dozen plant species, most of them thriving.


Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the patch of newly overgrown orange peel.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant three-foot fig tree on the plot. of diameter.

“You could have had 20 people climbing that tree at once and it would have held the weight with no problem,” says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. “That thing was huge.”

Recent evidence suggests that secondary rainforests – those that grow after the original inhabitants were destroyed – are key to helping slow climate change.


The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

“We don’t want businesses to go out there, willy-nilly, throwing their waste everywhere, but if it’s scientifically motivated and restaurateurs are involved in addition to businesses, it’s something that, to in my opinion, has very high potential,” says Treuer. .

The next step, he says, will be to examine whether other ecosystems – dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas – respond in the same way to similar deposition.

Two years after his first survey, Treuer returned to try again to locate the sign marking the site.

Since his first reconnaissance mission in 2013, Treuer has been in the field more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.

In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper’s lead author, David Wilcove, and Princeton professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a grove of vines, the scale of the transformation of the area became really clear.


The sign after the clearing of the vines.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

“It’s a big honking sign,” Choi points out.

19 years of waiting, fingers crossed, had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration and the peel of an unpretentious fruit.

This article was originally published on 08/23/17

Gn Health

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