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Carbon Offset Schemes Only Make Sense With Mixed-Species Forests

by Sammy Witchalls

Continuing to plant forest monocultures under carbon offset schemes is not only an inefficient way to mitigate against climate change but it is a missed opportunity to promote biodiversity, adapt against anthropogenic disturbances and provide economic benefits.

The release of carbon to the atmosphere is currently occurring at the highest rate in over 66 million years. Despite a recent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, emissions are now showing signs of rebounding back up to pre-COVID-19 levels. The changing climate is becoming an increasingly prominent driver in the current ecological crisis by creating hostile conditions in which many species cannot adapt quickly enough, and are being forced into extinction as a result. 

Ecological diversity is integral to creating resilient ecosystems that will be less vulnerable to the onset of ecological tipping points triggered by climate change. Tree planting has fast become one of the most popular climate mitigation solutions and is used by many countries to reduce their carbon emissions and meet national targets and international pledges such as the 2015 Paris Agreement.

However, many of these carbon offset schemes consider the forests as a short-term economic asset with one aim: to sequester a given mass of carbon for the lowest price which commonly involves growing forest monocultures. The problem with this approach is that it compartmentalises the climate and biodiversity emergencies, making it much more inefficient compared to growing mixed-species forests that harmonises both the goals and actions of both crises and attempts to solve them holistically.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022