To slow the effects of climate change, conserve biodiversity, and meet the sustainable development goals, replanting trees is vital. Restored forests store carbon within the forest's soil, shrubs, and trees. Mixed forests are especially effective at carbon storage, as different species with complementary traits can increase overall carbon storage.
Compared to single-species forests, mixed forests are also more resilient to pests, diseases, and climatic disturbances, which increases their long-term carbon storage potential. The delivery of other ecosystem services is also greater in mixed species forests, and they support higher levels of biodiversity.
Although the benefits of diverse forest systems are well known, many countries' restoration commitments are focused on establishing monoculture plantations. Given this practice, an international team of scientists has compared carbon stocks in mixed planted forests to carbon stocks in commercial and best-performing monocultures, as well as the average of monocultures.
Their work is published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.
"Diverse planted forests store more carbon than monocultures—upwards of 70%," said Dr. Emily Warner, a postdoctoral researcher in ecology and biodiversity science at the Department of Biology, University of Oxford, and first author of the study. "We also found the greatest increase in carbon storage relative to monocultures in four-species mixtures."