As of 2017, thirty-eight percent of Peru’s forests were lost to deforestation due to gold mining in the area. But there is hope. Wake Forest researchers have developed newfound ways to reforest and heal the soil that is left poisoned by mercury.

“What we’ve had to do is figure out how to make trees grow in that landscape,” CEES Director Miles Silman, says in his interview with the BBC World Service.

Out of the 2,000 + species of trees in the Amazon, researchers through Wake Forest’s Centro de Innovación Científica Amazónica have identified approximately 60 species that grow well in the soil depleted by the affects of gold mining — but trees don’t tell the whole story.

“The real key to it isn’t so much the actual species of trees that are chosen,” says  Silman. “But the way that the soil is prepared in order to help them grow.”

There are two ways that this is done. The first is by taking something akin to charcoal called Biochar, Silman explains, that absorbs water and helps the nutrients and microbes that the plants and trees rely on, stay in the soil. The second, is by inoculating the soil with a microbiome that allows plants to grow in this landscape.

Listen to the full BBC World Service Newsday Broadcast here: