Trade-offs between tree cover, carbon storage and floristic biodiversity in reforesting landscapes
The multiple benefits of reforestation projects for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services are taken as a given. Yet not all forests are equal. Plantation-type reforestation projects typically undertaken for carbon sequestration are known for low species richness and inadequate provision of other ecosystem services. This study explores the relationships between an increase in tree cover area and changes in forest carbon storage and the potential of a landscape to provide habitat for native floristic biodiversity.
Research goals & methods
Four areas experiencing an increase in tree cover were analyzed: northwestern Costa Rica, northern Vietnam, southern Chile and highland Ecuador. The authors developed a metric estimating the potential to support native biodiversity based on tree cover type (plantation or natural forests) and the landscape pattern of natural and anthropogenic land covers. We used published estimates for forest and plantation carbon stocks for each region. Landscapes experiencing increases in natural secondary forest also experienced an increase in carbon stored above and below ground, and in the potential to support native floristic biodiversity. Study landscapes in Chile and Ecuador experiencing an expansion of exotic plantations saw their carbon stock decrease along with their potential to support native floristic biodiversity.
Conclusions & takeaways
This study shows that an increase in forest area does not necessarily imply an increased provision of ecosystem services when landscapes are reforesting with monoculture plantations of exotic tree species. Changes in the support of native biodiversity and the carbon stored in pulp rotation plantations, along with other ecosystem services, should be fully considered before implementing reforestation projects.
Trade-offs between tree cover, carbon storage and floristic biodiversity in reforesting landscapes. Landscape Ecology. 2012;27:1135–1147. doi:10.1007/s10980-012-9755-y..
- Earth and Life Institute, Georges Lemaˆıtre Centre for Earth and Climate Research, University of Louvain, Belgium
- Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, Flanagan Building, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA
- US Forest Service, Research and Development, Washington, DC, USA
- School of Earth Sciences and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA