Seeing more than carbon for the trees

Sep 24, 2013
Tree plantings on degraded or unused land along fences, roads or at field margins can provide many co-benefits.

'Best practice' carbon farming that considers more than just the carbon in trees is needed if the full benefits of trees in the landscape are to be realised by farmers, landholders, and the community.

CSIRO-led research confirms that tree plantings in rural lands have significant potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, if done well, can provide a stream of other benefits to farmers, local communities and the environment.

"Schemes which offer for for carbon present an opportunity to reverse trends in land clearing but also to restore ecosystem services – such as pest control, pollination, soil and water conservation – that provide important benefits to farmers and the broader community," according to CSIRO's Dr Brenda Lin.

Past removal of trees have disrupted many natural processes such as refuges for native insects that , pollination, , organic matter accumulation and water and soil conservation that are important for and the environment.

"The ability of carbon tree plantings to restore some of these other benefits that support agricultural production may be a key factor in encouraging farmers and landholders to take up this type of carbon farming," Dr Lin said.

Tree plantings in rural lands have significant potential to provide a wide range of co-benefits as well as taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. ​

"Land-use models show that policies aimed solely at maximising may not produce additional agricultural and environmental benefits and may even produce unwanted outcomes for farmers, landowners and communities.

"For example, studies of past revegetation in agricultural landscapes show that in some locations intensive single-species (or monoculture) plantations can affect water flows, increase and lead to biodiversity loss, be fire prone and have poor growth rates. Poorly located vegetation could reduce the availability of land for food production."

Alternatively, there are many opportunities for tree plantings, if planned and implemented properly, to provide additional benefits to the farmer beyond just carbon.

"By revegetating unused, marginal or degraded cropping land, using multiple species of trees and shrubs, we could see improvements to pest control, pollination and water quality, increased wind protection and reduced soil erosion and salinity," Dr Lin said.

"For example, we know that remnant native vegetation patches that currently persist in , if they are well managed and contain few weed species, support a range of insect and spider predators and parasitic wasps that can attack pests of grain crops."

The benefits for local communities and the public could include increased water quality, reduced pesticide use, more habitat for species such as birds, and other cultural benefits.

The research, published in the American BioScience journal, highlights the need to better understand these private, public and shared benefits and tradeoffs so that future policies and initiatives encourage 'best practice' tree plantings that maximise the positives while also storing carbon.

Explore further: TransCanada seeks approvals for pipeline to Atlantic

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Carbon farming schemes should consider multiple cobenefits

Sep 13, 2013

Carbon markets and related international schemes that allow payments to landholders for planting trees, sometimes called carbon farming, are intended to support sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. But they will have ...

Native species proposed as viable long-term sequesters

Jan 26, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research into the carbon sequestration abilities of native tree species was undertaken by Greening Australia, and will hopefully make native species more attractive and viable option for ...

How climate-friendly is your cup of coffee?

Jul 03, 2013

Coffee drinkers are encouraged to buy environmentally-friendly coffee, whether it be certified, organic or shade coffee (grown under the shade of trees that are important habitat for birds), but how effective are these ways ...

Digging deeper for soil carbon storage

Sep 10, 2013

Many surface soils in Western Australia are already storing as much carbon as they can, according to research at The University of Western Australia and in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture ...

Recommended for you

Australia set to pay polluters to cut emissions

2 hours ago

Australia is set to approve measures giving polluters financial incentives to reduce emissions blamed for climate change, in a move critics described as ineffective environmental policy.

TransCanada seeks approvals for pipeline to Atlantic

13 hours ago

TransCanada on Thursday filed for regulatory approval of a proposed Can$12 billion (US$10.7 billion) pipeline to carry western Canadian oil to Atlantic coast refineries and terminals, for shipping overseas.

Does it help conservation to put a price on nature?

16 hours ago

Putting a price on the services which a particular ecosystem provides may encourage the adoption of greener policies, but it may come at the price of biodiversity conservation. Writing today in the journal ...

Reef-builders with a sense of harmony

18 hours ago

Cold-water corals of the species Lophelia pertusa are able to fuse skeletons of genetically distinct individuals. On dives with JAGO, a research submersible stationed at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, scientists ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.