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Ecosystem Services Facts Not Fiction With Bamboo Expert

  • Podcast

16th ThinkBamboo Podcast with Johan Gielis – having been in the Bamboo Industry since the 80’s, he gives ThinkBamboo, among other things, insights about the Bamboo Ecosystem Services.

The Fascinating World of Bamboo Ecosystem Services: Insights with Johan Gielis – a long time Bamboo Expert

Johan Gielis speaking at the European Bamboo Expo 2023 in Dortmund Germany.

Welcome to the ThinkBamboo Podcast! Today, we have the privilege of talking with Johan Gielis, a prominent figure in the bamboo industry since the 1980s. Johan actively involved himself in researching and developing bamboo micropropagation techniques. He has worked with bamboo in various capacities, from its genetics by developing successful bamboo propagation methods to physiology to exploring its ecosystem services and environmental impact. We actually met in person at the last European Bamboo Expo 2023 in Dortmund Germany.

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See Video Podcast Interview

Video podcast interview with Johan Gielis and JJ from

Video Quick Links

00:12 Johan Gielis has been actively working with bamboo since the 80s
06:17 Bamboo has ecosystem services and diverse habitats
12:12 Bamboo transform degraded soils and contribute to favorable abiotic conditions
18:14 Bamboo is a C4 plant and can sequester around 200 tons of carbon per hectare
23:29 Bamboo can be beneficial for urban greening and regulating extreme weather
28:33 Bamboo is highly efficient in water consumption – low water footprint
33:51 Bamboo adapts to survive in almost any environment
39:03 Bamboo has similar carbon sequestration properties as Chinese fir, and it uses half the water.

Background: From Horticulture to Bamboo Propagation

Johan Gielis, a horticultural engineer from Belgium, embarked on an extraordinary journey in the bamboo world. His expertise in developing a micropropagation system for bamboo proved revolutionary. Despite numerous challenges, Johan and his team managed to create a method suitable for temperate and tropical bamboos. This breakthrough led to the production of around 30 million bamboos worldwide.

Johan Gielis Background: From Horticulture to Bamboo Propagation
  • Johan developed a fast propagation system for bamboo in vitro, and Bambu Nusa Verde. currently utilizes it in Indonesia.
  • Around 30 million bamboos have been produced using Johan’s methods.
  • Johan also conducted research on bamboo genetics, flowering, and physiology.
  • He was involved in international projects to assess bamboo as a viable alternative for agriculture.
  • Johan made a discovery in bamboo geometry and mathematics and now works in an antenna company based on his work.
  • Facts, not Fiction – Johan emphasizes the importance of sticking to facts and avoiding overestimation in bamboo cultivation.

Bamboo and its Impact on Ecosystem Services

While the public widely knows bamboo’s versatility and value in various industries, another aspect that often goes unnoticed is its ecosystem services. Bamboo plays a crucial role in growing in barren areas, such as lands devastated by mining, offering a chance for vegetation to flourish once more. This environmental benefit is significant, as the presence of vegetation leads to a cascade of ecosystem improvements. Obviously the ecosystem services of bamboo are not limited to regenerating degraded soil but this is a globally used application.

A literature review indicated that the carbon stock in vegetation (including understory species and other mixed vegetation) of Moso bamboo is within the range of 27-77 t C/ha. The majority of carbon appears to be sequestered in the arbour layer accounting for 84-99%; the shrub layer and the herbaceous layer accounted for very small contributions, especially in intensively managed bamboo forests. When looking at the whole ecosystem, including the soil, Moso bamboo forest ecosystem carbon storage capacity was reported to be between 102 t C/ha and 289 t C/ha, of which 19-33% was stored within the bamboo culms and vegetative layer and 67-81% stored within the soil layer (rhizomes, roots and soil carbon). This indicates that the soil layer carbon content is likely to be about 2-4 times greater than the vegetative layer. Bamboo ecosystems were found to have an equal or somewhat lower carbon stock (between 102- 288 t C/ha) when compared with other forest types (between 122 – 337 t C/ha). Source INBAR.

What are Ecosystem services?

Ecosystem services refer to the benefits that humans derive from ecosystems, including provisioning services (e.g., food, water, timber), regulating services (e.g., climate regulation, water purification), cultural services (e.g., recreation, spiritual value), and supporting services (e.g., soil formation, nutrient cycling). In regards to bamboo ecosystem services – we can think of the following services: Regulation: Climate change mitigation, Watershed services, Biodiversity conservation, Soil, AirReforestation, etc.

  • Bamboo can help maintain its own regulation of water and invite the growth of forests.
  • Bamboo can also absorb and recollect harmful materials like zinc and cadmium.
  • Bamboo has shown potential in cleaning up polluted areas.
  • Microorganisms in the soil and on bamboo roots play a crucial role in nutrient absorption.
  • Bamboo provides shade and limits soil water evaporation, benefiting the ecosystem.

Value of Ecosystem services?

Many overlook the value of ecosystem services because traditional markets do not trade many of these services, leaving them without a monetary value. However, valuing and comprehending these services are crucial for sustainable decision-making and conservation efforts. If we measure in monetary terms, experts estimate that ecosystems provide services worth trillions of dollars, ranging from 33T to 144T – double the world’s GDP.

The Carbon Sequestration Mystery Unveiled

Johan delves into the misconception around bamboo’s carbon sequestration abilities. Many people assume that bamboo, being a water-loving plant, will dry out the environment. In reality, it is quite the opposite! Bamboo efficiently utilizes water, and its impressive photosynthesis capabilities make it an effective carbon sequestration agent. It continuously takes up CO2, even during dry periods, making it a valuable resource in mitigating climate change effects.

Water Use Efficiency: A Game-Changer

One of the most remarkable aspects of bamboo is its water use efficiency. Compared to other plants, bamboo is a champion in conserving water. Even in the dry season, bamboo can close its stomata, reducing moisture loss. Such a trait is invaluable in regions facing water scarcity. Its ability to thrive with limited water makes bamboo an essential player in sustainable agriculture and ecosystem preservation.

Bamboo and Water Footprint
Measuring how much water is needed to build one kg of biomass

Bamboo Literacy: The Need for Awareness

Despite its incredible potential, bamboo remains largely underutilized due to misconceptions and lack of awareness. Johan emphasizes the importance of bamboo literacy – spreading knowledge about bamboo’s diverse uses and benefits. From using bamboo in materials to promoting bamboo-based businesses, raising awareness is key to harnessing its full potential.

Conclusion: Embracing Bamboo

Johan Gielis leaves us with the message that bamboo’s future lies in our hands. By understanding and appreciating its ecosystem services, we can promote sustainable practices and create a greener world. Bamboo is not just a substitute for plastic or wood; it offers original, innovative uses in various industries. Let’s embrace the bamboo revolution, unlock its potential, and make a positive impact on our environment and society.

In conclusion, our conversation with Johan Gielis has shed light on the incredible world of bamboo ecosystem services. From carbon sequestration to water efficiency, bamboo’s environmental benefits are vast and should not be underestimated. As we venture into a more sustainable future, let us remember the value of bamboo and its potential to transform industries and preserve our planet for generations to come. The challenge of the bamboo industries lies within the accurate measurements and data collection for the development of bamboo as a global standardised crop.