Living on an Off-Grid Biological Reserve in the Yucatan Jungle

hi my name is paul morris 
and i'm director of earth   connection center a biological 
reserve in the yucatan jungle   it's a hundred acre property and on that we 
have a huge diversity of different wildlife   birds and insects and iguanas and all sorts of 
different species and it's really amazing place we also have a beautiful cenote which is a hole 
that goes into the ground where the groundwater   is with beautiful crystal clear water so because 
of that cenote a lot of different species come   to that property to get water because there is no 
groundwater and no lakes no rivers in the yucatan   so this area is a high biodiversity spot and we 
are encouraging the restoration of the different   plants on the property planting plants growing 
trees we're doing all sorts of things to enhance   the biodiversity of the property we're looking 
for students we want to do biological research   on biodiversity looking we've had students in 
the past who worked on ant biodiversity and b   biodiversity but also we need people to look 
at plant diversity and all sorts of things   that occur there's so many different species that 
are very unique to the yucatan peninsula many   species that haven't even been discovered 
yet so it's really truly an amazing place in 2014 i took my truck and i took on a journey 
so i went through the us and then i started   journeying through mexico and i ended up in the 
yucatan peninsula so we brought a property down   there that's we created a biological reserve and 
as you can see the work located close to merida   and the property is about 100 acres 40 
hectares and it's got a whole diversity   of different species on it so this is our team i'm 
a restoration ecologist adi is an agronomist and   juan is a naval engineer mexico is a mega diverse 
country and the yucatan peninsula is extremely   rich in diversity and endemic species it's also on 
the flyway from north america into south america   so it's an extremely important area for biological 
diversity so this is one of the reasons that we're   doing this reserve right here so in the beginning 
this is what we found it was very dry very little   vegetation it was a former ranch and so the 
cows that were on the property had basically   denuded all the vegetation and eaten them so in 
the dry season anything green and anything that   they can reach they they eat and what we found was 
mostly shrubby trees thorny shrubs and so the area   didn't have very much diversity on the ground 
so we needed to do a lot of restoration work   so as a restoration ecologist when we first came 
there the land was very degraded a lot of thorny   trees and shrubs were still there because the 
cows that's the only thing the cows wouldn't eat   so we needed to regenerate the soil and start 
growing the plants so we collected a lot of   different seeds we bought and we started growing 
different plants so that we could plant them out   we also created a little nursery to establish the 
plants and as you can see this was the casita when   we first arrived the cows were actually running 
in and out of that and we saw we had to repair it   there was no water on the property so we had to 
hand haul up from the well that was established   on the property there's no electricity different 
things like that so there's all sorts of different   challenges we had to face and overcome when 
we're starting out as you can see the area is   very degraded there's not a lot of ground cover 
the trees are actually quite short and so we had   to grow those up and you can see one of the tents 
in the background you can see right through to it   and the aerial photo was a drone footage 
that we took about two years later   and you can see some of the trees are starting to 
grow up a little bit more the garden's starting   to take shape and the tank is fixed most of 
the jungle in that area is actually very tall   and very thick and very rich in diversity and the 
first two years was very hard work we invited all   sorts of international volunteers to the property 
and they helped us plant trees and establishing   different infrastructure establishing gardens 
establishing the food forest so we gave we really   appreciate all the help that we got from the first 
few years later on we started getting institutions   involved and we had university students coming 
and doing their research on the property   so we've got we're continuing to do that and we'll 
be bringing in more research into the property   we'll be getting students to study biodiversity 
ecological restoration and ecological   agriculture techniques so by year three we had 
enough infrastructure in place we started to do   all sorts of different course and we started 
offering eco-tourism and so just bringing   people in and teaching people about the different 
ecological processes and ecological restoration   as well as doing uh ecosystem restoration camps so 
bringing people out to plant the trees to restore   the jungle and to accelerate the process of 
restoring it back into a natural habitat and here   you can see that the property this is year four 
and things are really starting to green up the   trees are starting to jump up the pleas we planted 
are starting to grow they're over two or three   meters tall and things are the jungle is really 
starting to fill in and more and more bird species   are starting to arrive and it's really it's 
really developing into a unique jungle experience   and as the vegetation started returning we because 
we're adding so much diversity of different native   species into the forest ecosystem we also saw the 
animals starting to return so you have more and   more species are coming in because we have such 
a diversity of different species that we planted   and you know one of the unique things that we 
came back was one of the anteaters you can see   him climbing down the tree there it's like when we 
found him coming then this is like a species that   didn't occur here before and so we're starting 
to allow other species that didn't occur here   because the cows had eaten all the vegetation and 
degraded the landscape we're allowing the place to   regenerate and all the species are coming back the 
animals originally they would stay away from us   and so you know they're very wary but 
then as we've been living there for years   gradually they're coming closer and closer and you 
know you walk out the door and suddenly they're   just like no it's them okay keep eating so you 
gradually have this uh you're integrated you   become part of their ecosystem and they see okay 
you're protecting them they're you're not a threat   we're not going to hunt them we're 
not going to kill them so they   they see you as more benign and you get more and 
more interactions with the creatures in the jungle   and it's it's really a special experience 
you know when a deer walks close by you when   the kawates walk across the trail in front 
of you when the turkeys are coming out and   drinking water while you're having tea in the 
morning just different things like that just uh   just having that experience it's a it's a moment 
it's so it stops your mind and you're just there   with the animal totally present 
totally in the moment and yeah it's beautiful one of the unique features of the property is it 
has a cenote all of the yakitan none of the water   is actually on the surface it's actually all below 
ground so the animals have a really hard time   getting water so having the snow to there allowed 
for a lot of different bird species to come   and they'd come and get a drink of water and one 
of the conditions that we changed on the property   was creating a lot of little wet ponds so we feed 
the water into even lift a little bowl of water   and put that out into the on the ground and all 
sorts of birds and then we're getting all sorts   of different insects and all sorts of different 
animals there's never anything to come and so   because we had great success with our first just 
putting a little bowl of water out because a   lot of these species can't even get down into the 
cenote it's like 10 meter drop into the snot they   can't climb down then they're not getting water so 
by just introducing different water features and   we'll talk about that in another video we have so 
much more diversity of different species have come   because of their attracted to the water source 
there's over a thousand species of trees native   to the yucatan peninsula and one of the reasons 
that we really enjoy this area is because we   can do a lot of carbon sequestration work in the 
area these tropical trees trees grow so quickly   uh within a few years that you're re-establishing 
a forest whereas in the temperate region   it's much for a much slower process so 
we can pull down a lot of carbon and put   it into the vegetative matter and put it into 
the soil into the living tissues of the plants   and sequester a lot of carbon we have over 500 
different herbaceous plant species on the property   so there's each one of those species is unique and 
so they you have unique pollinators that pollinate   only that plant so the more different species 
that you have and the greater diversity of species   of plants you're also increasing the derivative 
of diversity of insects birds mammals so you're   increasing the diversity of the entire ecosystem 
usually i try to do a ground up restoration   so planting the plants and then allowing 
the other species to come in on their own   they find it they find the natural habitats so 
there really is a lot of endemic species within   the yucatan because it's such a unique habitat 
the cenotes are one example we have five different   crazed fish species they're blind they live at 
the bottom of the cenote we have different fish   species down there and eel so i mean all these 
species are blind and they're endemic and they're   endangered and they're inside the cenote that's 
on our property so that's just one example of   all the different species that are occurring on 
the property and that are coming to the property   they're all very unique it's really important that 
the jungle is healthy the species all over the   world are in decline so many species we're losing 
so many so much biodiversity is being lost on the   planet right now and it's it's really a crime 
it's that's all these species are disappearing   you know it just grabs you by the heart when 
you realize how many species are disappearing   so it's really important to re-establish natural 
ecosystems you can see the property that we have   the ecosystem was completely degraded and slowly 
step by step with a lot of effort we can start   restoring the planet so it's really important 
that have all these different ecosystems i mean   it's only 100 acres but that is it's basically 
a model showing other people how to do this   teaching people how to to restore the land how to 
live sustainably how to grow food sustainably but   it's also an example that we want to to repeat 
again and again and again working with the mayan   farmers working with the different landowners and 
showing them how they can improve the property   we want to live in a tropical paradise we want to 
live in a paradise that everybody can enjoy not   just humans but all the wildlife that's around us 
they all deserve to have a place to live as well well we hope to inspire you to show you 
different techniques that we're using   and to inspire you to do your own projects and 
give so we're gonna be giving different videos   that show different techniques that we're using 
and different processes and how we're doing it   so that it's the least impact on the jungle 
both here and in canada different projects   that we're working on and to share you and 
share in the processes you know we've got   processes for water processes for cooking process 
for getting the energy so that we can talk to you   different things like that so 
please join us on our journey

pexels photo 7673598

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