A new study in Ecological Management & Restoration has found that reforesting rainforest captures more carbon than monoculture plantation and even mixed species plantations.
The research tested three projects in north-eastern Australia: a rainforest reforesting project using a variety of native trees, a mixed species plantation, and a monoculture plantation of conifers.
\”Compared to the monoculture plantations reforestation projects were more densely stocked, there were more large trees and the trees which were used had a higher wood density then the conifers at the plantation\”, explained co-author Dr John Kanowski an ecologist with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in a press release.
The study found that on average a hectare of restored rainforest stored 106 tons of carbon: over 40 tons of carbon more than a hectare of monoculture conifer plantation and 20 tons more than a hectare of mixed species plantation.
Environmentalists have long argued against turning to vast monoculture plantations as a way to mitigate climate change, since such plantations erode biodiversity, putting many species in danger. In addition, plantations have sparked conflict with indigenous tribes and polluted water supplies.
According to Kanowski this new study puts to rest the idea that monoculture plantations store more carbon than rainforest projects.
“Carbon markets have become a potential source of funding for restoration projects as countries and corporations seek the cheapest way to reduce carbon emission. However, there is a concern that this funding will encourage single species monoculture plantations instead of diverse reforestation projects, due to the widely held belief that monocultures capture more carbon.”
Still Kanowski admits that there are economic difficulties in choosing forest restoration over plantations, since restoration projects cost more than implementing a plantation.