The Maya forest gardeners have been using sustainable agricultural methods to prioritize the health of the ecosystem while increasing yields for over 8,000 years. Their principles cultivated the Maya Forest to be one of the world’s top biodiverse forests and produced an array of environmental benefits.
Although the Maya forest gardeners’ practices center around mimicking the structure of the forest, their principles can be applied to different habitats as seen with Regenerate Nebraska.
The earth’s climate has always been changing, but its current exponential pace is impossible for human adaptation. We must prioritize a reciprocal relationship with nature that regenerates biodiversity to slow down the pace of climate change and provide more time for adaptation.
The forest canopy provides shade that reflects or absorbs sunlight, making it cooler. Trees also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing the greenhouse gas effect in the area and lowering the temperature.
Plant roots hold the soil together, preventing it from being blown away, dried out, or collapsed on slopes and hills. A thick jungle canopy prevents dried and leached soils that erode easily by blocking the majority of the sunlight, keeping it from drying out
Builds Soil Fertility
Both trees and undergrowth contribute to decomposing plant matter that covers the jungle floor. Decomposers process this cover and form nutrient-rich, fertile soils beneficial towards plant growth. Furthermore, trees and undergrowth prevent rainfall from washing this valuable topsoil into a nearby stream.
Just as they absorb carbon, trees can absorb large quantities of water that can recharge groundwater aquifers. Tree root systems help prevent water from running off and trap potential pollutants such as sediments and particles. This improves the quality of water that does run off and end up in streams and rivers. The Maya forest helps preserve limited yet vital sources of water in the area.
The Maya forest facilitates biodiversity by creating a wide variety of plants and providing a home for and sustaining wildlife. Tall forest trees form a thick canopy that provides a wealth of habitat for jungle animals: branches for birds and monkeys, roots for snakes and jaguars, and bark for insects and mushrooms. Smaller plants in the undergrowth provide habitats and nutrition for animals like deer. Lastly, decomposers and fungi flourish with the decaying plant matter on the forest floor.
Cares for Our People & Planet
People flourish in the cool shade, enjoying a variety of plants with secure access to water, food grown on fertile soil, and lush landcover to check erosion. The forest is more than its plants, and we see a future where we enjoy benefits such as these.
Methods Creating These Benefits
Maya farming maximizes the environmental benefits by using practices like cover cropping. You can increase the sustainability in your agricultural practices by learning and applying these principles to your own garden.
This is the practice of planting cover crops, which are plants that cover your soil in order to reduce soil erosion, increase water retention, improve soil health, increase biodiversity, and more. Cover crops can be planted around the time of harvesting cash crops or in between rows of permanent crops.