Planting Forests for Carbon Sequestration
Imagine a forest landscape where every tree is aligned and equally spaced apart. A forest where there are no sounds, no undergrowth and a distinct lack of species. Could this be the fate of our environment as carbon forestry becomes a common way to offset greenhouse gas emissions? Or, could it supplement reforestation programs and slowly ease the biodiversity crisis?
Post-Kyoto there has been strong support for global emissions to be 'capped'. Key nations, including Australia, Norway and Japan, have already started to place a price on carbon, with internal stakeholders now having a legal obligation to pay for the greenhouse gasses they emit. One strategy that has been adopted by these 'compliance' markets — as well as many 'voluntary' markets — includes the purchasing of carbon credits that are linked with the forestry sector. Referred to as 'carbon forestry', a new forest is established on degraded land in order to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, thereby allowing an investor to offset their emissions output.
According to a 2011 report by the monitoring and analysis agency Ecosystem Marketplace over 30 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) was contracted across forest markets in 2010. The emergence of carbon forestry is particularly evident in Australia, where an estimated sixty five thousand hectares of forests have been planted for the purpose of carbon sequestration. Similarly, more than one thousand hectares of 'for purpose' woodland have been created in the United Kingdom through the Forestry Commission, one of the country’s largest land managers.
It is clear that carbon forestry provides a low-cost and low-risk means for investors to hedge their carbon responsibilities. Yet whether these increasingly prominent plantations enhance the aesthetics of the landscape, or potential for biodiversity within those landscapes is questionable.
In general, carbon forests have the potential to offer a variety of benefits for the environment. Not only do they provide habitat that can be used by a range of vertebrate and invertebrate species for food and shelter, they may also act as 'green corridors' that link remnant patches of native vegetation. This could be particularly beneficial for certain groups of species such as butterflies and moths whose populations have been detrimentally impacted by the defragmentation of suitable habitat.
Continue reading at ENN Affiliate The Ecologist.
Tree image via Shutterstock.