Bamboo Facts and Environmental Benefits
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet! Some species can grow more then 3 ft. a day, and can be harvested in 3-5 years versus 10-50 years for most softwoods and hardwoods. Almost 1 million acres of forests are lost each week worldwide to deforestation. Bamboo's quick growing nature and versatility as a substitute for hardwoods offers a chance to drastically reduce that figure and protect the forests that we have left.
Bamboo can help mitigate global warming. Bamboo absorbs up to five times more carbon dioxide, and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than an equivalent stand of trees. It has been calculated that some bamboo plantations are able to capture 17 metric tons of carbon per hector per year. According to experts, bamboo could be the fastest and least expensive way to offset CO2 emissions (by sequestering atmospheric carbon) while new systems of energy and conservation are developed.
Bamboo is an ideal replacement for wood due to its incredible strength, regenerative properties, and natural beauty. In structural engineering tests, bamboo has a higher compressive strength than many mixtures of concrete, a higher tensile strength than most types of steel, and a higher strength to weight ratio than graphite. Bamboo has been used as the main building material for the majority of the world for thousands of years. There are many examples of buildings constructed entirely of bamboo, which are now several hundred years old. Due to its strength and flexibility, bamboo is considered ideal earthquake proof building material.
Bamboo can be harvested and replenished with virtually no impact to the environment. Bamboo can be selectively harvested annually or continuously re-harvested every 3-5 years. When it is harvested, it will grow a new shoot from its extensive root system with no need for additional planting or cultivation. During the time it takes to regenerate, the bamboo plant's root system stays intact so topsoil is held in place and erosion is prevented. One bamboo clump can produce 200 poles in the five years it takes one tree to reach maturity. Because of its dense litter on the forest floor, it actually protects, enriches and fertilizes the topsoil over time, providing healthy agricultural lands for future generations.
There are over 1200 species of bamboo on the earth. This diversity makes bamboo adaptable to a wide range of climates. Bamboo can grow in arid regions where droughts cause other crops to fail; and since the roots are left in place after harvesting, it helps to preserve vital moisture in the soil. From low wetlands to higher elevations in the mountains, bamboo's versatility helps it to thrive. And perhaps its most important adaptive quality is its ability to be grown in soil damaged by overgrazing and poor agriculture techniques.
Bamboo is an ideal soil conservation element. Because of its wide-spread root system and large canopy, bamboo greatly reduces rain runoff, prevents massive soil erosion and keeps twice as much water in the watershed. Its anti-erosion properties hold the soil together along fragile riverbanks, deforested areas, and in places prone to earthquakes and mudslides. Bamboo also helps mitigate water pollution due to its ability to take up excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and heavy metals. This ability could provide a solution for processing excess nutrients contained in wastewater from manufacturing, intensive livestock farming, and sewage treatment facilities.
No fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides are needed to grow bamboo. Unlike most cash crops, bamboo requires no agricultural chemicals to thrive. Unlike cotton, which is one of the most intensely sprayed crops in the world and rapidly depletes the nutrients in the soil, bamboo sequesters nitrogen and cultivation does not add chemicals to the environment. Bamboo is rarely attacked by pests or infected by pathogens as bamboo contains a natural antibacterial agent and pesticide known as "Bamboo Kun". The bamboo kun is also maintained when bamboo is transformed into fabric, making it naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and odor resistant.
Bamboo is a livelihood for many poor rural communities. Bamboo plantations do not drain the resources of these communities or expose the workers and the environment to harmful chemicals. Bamboo and its related industries already provide income, food, and housing to over 2.2 billion people worldwide. In under-developed countries, bamboo production and the manufacturing of bamboo products provides job opportunities in areas that desperately need social and economic stability, without degrading the environment.
Bamboo is a high-yield, renewable natural resource for agro-forestry products. After harvesting, virtually every part of the plant is used to make a wide variety of products. Bamboo is being used for wall paneling, floor tiles, bamboo pulp for paper making, briquettes for fuel, raw material for housing construction, and rebar for reinforced concrete beams. It is used in scaffolding, food, utensils, arts and crafts, furniture, instruments, clothing and more.
Bamboo is an ancient medicine and has been used for centuries in Ayurveda and Chinese acupuncture. The powdered hardened secretion from bamboo is used internally to treat asthma and coughs. In China, ingredients from the root of the black bamboo help treat kidney disease. Roots and leaves have also been used to treat venereal disease and cancer. Sap is said to reduce fever and ash will cure prickly heat. Current research points to bamboo's potential in a number of medicinal uses.
Bamboo shoots as a food source provide nutrition for millions of people worldwide. In Japan, the antioxidant properties of pulverized bamboo bark prevent bacterial growth and are used as a natural food preservative. Bamboo "litter" makes fodder for animals and food for fish.
Environmental Bamboo Foundation P.O. Box 196 Ubud 80571, Bali, Indonesia Telephone: 62-361-974-027 Fax: 62-361-974-029
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