Biocapacity Position Paper

Dear TT folks, In preparation for Thursday's meeting, I'm sending you a biocapacity position paper for your comments that James Samuels asked me to prepare. Since the biocapacity, bioregional concept is new to some I added some concise detail (I hope ;-)  References, footnotes, endnotes should be hyper-linked before they are placed on TT website. 

Following the text's endnotes I have appended an offer to donate Bush Vitality Assessment & Growing Common Futures [book - details below] to the Transition town network, free, except for delivery. 

I look forward to your suggestions on how we can extend the biocapacity concept to other audiences.

Thank you very much in advance,

Best regards,
Helle and Claudia 
H. Janssen, C. Janssen
Forest Ecologist
Economist  NGO, NPO

Transition Towns’ Biocapacity Vision:

Town folks have transitioned by accepting responsibility to restore and maintain biocapacity[i] of bio-regions[ii] affected by towns’ resource needs. 

Towns’ contributions towards resource generation are scaled according to people’s Ecological Footprint[1] and exceed its resource requirements in order to restore past resource degradation and achieve bioregional and towns’ long-term resilience. 


Transition-town activists seek solutions to diminishing natural resources and humanity’s impact on Earth’s ecological integrity. They establish networks to reach out, elevate collective intelligence, responsibility and action for future generations and a sustainable environment. Many share an awareness of the fact that existing economies and their administrative support-structures fail to drive necessary adaptations.[2] People’s transitionary actions require adaptive-resource-management[iii] and systems thinking, astuteness about the precautionary principle and awareness about:

  • long-term consequences of actions and inactions,
  • ecosystem and soil resilience (Ulrich, 1987) and
  • bioregions’ sustainable productive potential.


Integrated wholistic solutions that restore depleted natural resources and bioregion’s functional integrity are of vital importance, if we are to implement a smooth transition of towns. 

Towns and villages are integral to human civilization.  The essence of transition towns’ task is creating momentum for action that establish reciprocal linkages and synergies within towns as well as restoring bioregional integrity upon which life’s and towns’ future depend.  Both ecosystems and sustainable towns have structural and functional diversity in common, the purpose of which is to efficiently use and effectively cycle a bioregion’s given solar-derived energies, its mineral and water resources in soil and biomass. This provides protection from extremes to individuals / species that participate and contribute to ecosystems’ / towns’ resilience.

While property-scale implementation of permaculture and organic gardening will reduce resource demand and provide surplus to sustain many people, there is a need to restore depleted resources and degraded biocapacity in an integrated way to sustain any town’s material, food and energy requirements into the future.  This must be done by establishing diversified Agro-ecoforestry and afforest indigenous timber trees in place of pines and eucalypts (trees adapted to fire-regeneration) which release and deplete soil carbon and soil nutrient reserves. (Janssen, 2006 (1), p.120-4; Valentini et al. 2000, 2002). 

Ecological afforestation of indigenous timber trees typically establishes over 60 top quality trees and valuable byproducts per hectare, compared to 1-3 quality trees per hectare, if left to regenerate naturally and from depleted seed-sources. (Janssen, 2006. MAF SFF, Project L06-047)  is the name for ‘Reciprocate Biocapacity’ a New Zealand Not for Profit and Non Governmental Organisation.  Donations fund projects that restore depleted natural resources and catalyse land-custodians' TreeRootACTION.

LifeCapacity  projects are set to restore soil carbon in afforested sites and also in cultivated fields and cropping soil, as biochar[iv] input from afforested release-thinning increases soils’ storage and exchange capacity for nutrients and water, thereby restoring its productivity and sustainable cropping potential. A wide range of timber products, associated agro-forestry yields of nuts, oil, fruit, honey, protein, biochar and wood-gas energy (H2 and CO) are by-products supporting resource requirements of a sustainable town. 

Indigenous, compatible afforestation and permanent canopy silviculture, established over 40% of a bioregion’s area; 25 % indigenous reserves; 25 % grazed parkland, open agro-forestry, orchards (permaculture zone 3); and the balance of 10 % as fields and gardens. Such land-cover type proportions are set to:

·         re-establish the ability of ecosystems to sustain intrinsic biodiversity,

·         produce useful biological materials and energy,

·         absorb emissions & wastes,

·         sustain biocapacity and grow resources for a future,

·         transition towns towards sustainability

·         empower bio-regional communities and retain civilisation.

Contact: for

  1. Wholistic Donations….the Ultimate Positive Fee-d- back
    • Afforestation of indigenous and compatible forests
    • Biocapacity, biochar, bio-community projects

2.      Wholistic Integrity! TreeRootACTION. Land-custodians' inquiries to apply for:

·         Indigenous, compatible afforestation funding and

·         Biocapacity, biochar, bio-community projects for


  1. Workshop inquiries for Bush Vitality Assessment & Growing Common Futures.
  2. Site-specific designs, indigenous, compatible afforestation, agro-forestry and permanent canopy silviculture
  3. Resource Information, Adaptive Resource Management, Pro-active decision making, Prioritisation.


Bioregionalism: The Need For a Firmer Theoretical Foundation", Don Alexander, Trumpeter v13.3, 1996.


Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund Conservation Science Programme


Janssen H, 2006 (1).  Bush Vitality Assessment. Growing Common Futures. Books are donated to Transition Town members at $ 12 to cover handling and postage expenses.


Janssen H, 2006 (2). A pilot inventory of elite native timber trees as seed-sources for native afforestation silviculture from lowland environmental domains.


Ulrich B, 1987. Stability, Elasticity, and Resilience of Terrestrial Ecosystems with Respect to Matter Balance. In: Potentials and Limitations of Ecosystem Analysis. Berlin, Heidelberg, NY: Springer Verlag.


Valentini, R., A. J. Dolman, P. Ciais, E.-D. Schulze, A. Freibauer, D. Schimel, and M. Heimann. 2000. Hörhold, Jena, CarboEurope European Office, Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany, October 2000. Accounting for carbon sinks in the biosphere, European perspective.


Valentini, 2002.  Results of Carbo-Europe. Europe-wide Programme that has Pioneered Research in to the Carbon Budget.


Valentini, 2002. Tree farms won’t halt climate change. New Scientist, October 2002.


Wackernagel, M., Monfreda, C., Moran, D., Wermer, P., Goldfinger, S., Deumling, D., Murray, M., 2005. “National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts 2005: The underlying calculation method”. Global Footprint Network, Oakland, California, USA


WWF, 2001. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the world: A New Map of Life on Earth. Vol.51 No.11 BioScience 933.


WWF, 2004. “Living Planet Report 2004”. World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), Gland, Switzerland


WWF, 2005. “Europe 2005 The Ecological Footprint”. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) European Policy Office, Brussels,Belgium.


[1] "Ecological Footprint" is an area measure of how much biological capacity is demanded by a given population or activity's resource-, and energy use. It includes the carbon emission Footprint.

[2] Wright Ronald, 2004 "A Short History of Progress"

[i] "Biocapacity (biological capacity)" means the ability of ecosystems to sustain intrinsic biodiversity, produce useful biological materials and energy, and absorb wastes generated by human activities (including carbon emissions). Biocapacity monitoring indicators assess intrinsic biodiversity and exchange capacity for water and nutrients in soil and biomass. Indicators include:

·          use potential (materials / energy) of natural resources (m3 / ha)

·          area of indigenous and compatible synergistic species

·          organic matter incorporated as high CEC mull-humus in soil (C t / ha)

[ii] Bioregions or ecoregions: WWF ecologists divide the land surface of the Earth into 867 terrestrial ecoregions. The WWF effort is a synthesis of many previous efforts to define and classify ecoregions. Many consider this classification to be quite decisive, and propose these as stable borders for bioregional democracy initiatives.  Bioregional democracy initiatives are political, cultural, and environmental systems based on naturally-defined areas called bioregions, or ecoregions. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed / catchment boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon and places emphasis on local level populations, knowledge, and solutions. The bioregionalist perspective encourages stewardship towards the environment and opposes a homogeneous economy and consumer culture. This perspective seeks to:

·          Ensure that political boundaries match ecological boundaries.

·          Highlight the unique ecology of the bioregion.

·          Encourage consumption of local foods where possible.

·          Encourage the use of local materials where possible.

·          Encourage the cultivation of native plants of the region.

·          Encourage sustainability in harmony with the bioregion.

[iii] Adaptive resource management: An experimental approach to management, or “structured learning by doing”. It is based on developing dynamic models that attempt to make predictions or hypotheses about impacts of alternative management policies.  Management learning then proceeds by systematic testing of these models, rather than by random trial and error.  Adaptive management is most useful when large complex ecological systems are being managed and management decisions can not wait for final research results.


[iv] Biochar results from anaerobic charring of hardwood at 450-500 o Celsius.  Added to soil, biochar binds with clay minerals long-term and increases soils exchange capacity for nutrients and water, resulting in efficient fertiliser applications, easier cultivation, better plant growth and sustainable long-term yields.  Wood gas (H2 and CO) is an energy by-product of hardwood charring, which can be stored or used for transport.


Bush Vitality Assessment. Growing Common Futures.

A field-guide donated by the author in support of New Zealand’s Transition Town initiative. NGO / NPO want to see the field guide applied

and invites people associated with, and interested in promoting and actioning the Transition of Towns to visit link, 

Use the Bush Vitality order form and type “TRANSITION TOWN” in your delivery address under “COUNTRY”.  This waves the nominal book price of $42.  To cover handling, packaging and postage costs the author would appreciate a koha of NZ $ 12.

For more ‘Growing Common Futures’ information, see