Thursday, May 2, 2019

Carbon Sequestration in Natural Forests vs. Monoculture Plantations

We recently saw a report from NASA that suggested the world is getting greener, however, this finding obscures the fact that much of this greenery is actually plantations and other forms of monoculture. Palm oil plantations have a particularly egregious footprint. This point was underscored by the devastating Indonesian fires in 2015.

Cultured forests do not support the kind of biodiversity we see in old growth forests. Massive mono cultures should not be confused with forest restoration. According a ScienceDaily article, "almost half (45%) of the vast areas that countries have pledged are set to become plantations of commercial trees, a move which will seriously reduce expected carbon uptake and prevent agreements to curb climate change being met."

If we want to seriously combat climate change and meet our emissions reduction goals we will need to restore forests. An intact forest removes 16 times more carbon from the atmosphere than a monoculture plantation.

The study titled, Regenerate natural forests to store carbon, recommends that the definition of 'forest restoration' exclude monoculture plantations, and they further propose three additional ways to increase carbon capture from today's forest restoration schemes:
  1. Increase the proportion of land being regenerated to natural forest
  2. Prioritise restoration in Amazonia, Borneo and the Congo Basin, which support very high biomass forest compared to drier regions
  3. Build on existing carbon stocks by targeting degraded forests for natural regeneration; and fourth, once natural forest is restored, protect it
There’s a huge difference between restoring natural forests and planting trees for commercial use, for example the large-scale monoculture of oil palms are far less efficient at carbon storage, and in fact release carbon emissions by replacing peatland, as well as being detrimental to wildlife.

While we have seen some progress in more sustainable palm oil plantations, the industry is still a serious problem for biodiversity conservation and climate change. 

The studies authors suggest we should take measures to protect at least 10 percent of old growth forests.

Related
Trees Really are as Close to a Panacea as it gets
Trees are Key to Combating the Climate Crisis
The World is Planting Trees and We are Seeing Results 
The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food
Forests Combat Climate Change and Benefit the Economy (Infographic)
Time to Acknowledge the Vital Importance of Trees
Global Deforestation/Reforestation and Climate Change
Our Forests are Being Decimated but they can be Reborn
Video - Forests = Life
Video: Reducing Emissions Through Forest Preservation with REDD 

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