Biodiversity-carbon co-benefits

Tropical forests store huge amounts of carbon and are one of the most biodiverse habitats in the world, however they are being converted at alarming rates.

report concluded that land-use planning measures that conserve carbon stocks will also conserve biodiversity and vice-versa. This science-for-policy paper for the Oil palm Research-Policy Partnership Network, was drafted by Dr Jennifer Lucey and Professor Jane Hill from the Department of Biology at York, and Dr Glen Reynolds from the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) and compared the different amounts of carbon and biodiversity in different land-use types in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The main findings showed that primary forests contain the highest levels of carbon and biodiversity. However, logged forests can also have high levels of biodiversity and can recover carbon stocks over time, so protecting these even moderately degraded forests are just as vital and can produce these co-benefits.

It also showed that oil-palm plantations contain 20% carbon and less than half of primary forests biodiversity. Also, the species found in these forests are open habitat and generalist species, not forest species.

The report included information from 75 scientific papers. For example, Magnago et al 2015 found that increasing forest fragment size has a positive relationship with carbon levels and abundance of IUCN red-listed species, thus biodiversity. This reinforces the importance of protecting these forest fragments which can be hotspots for biodiversity.

These findings can improve sustainable oil-palm production as well as providing solutions to simultaneously address both issues.

Dr Reynolds said: “Expansion of oil palm continues to threaten rainforests which are important stores of carbon and biodiversity. Our report shows that processes in place to conserve biodiversity should also conserve high levels of carbon — and vice-versa, which is relevant given recent industry moves to include high carbon stock assessments in guiding land-use decision making.”

I recently visited Sabah, Borneo for the second time on my MSc course and was lucky enough to be shown around one of the SEARPP nurseries by the director, Dr. Glen Reynolds. One of the main areas SEARPP focuses on is the restoration of degraded forests and these nurseries for dipterocarp seeds are vital in this as these seed types can only be collected at least every decade following a mast-fruiting event. Read more: Sabah Biodiversity Experiment 


Related links

Sensor project 

Science daily




Magnago, L. F. S., Magrach, A., Laurance, W. F., Martins, S. V., Meira-Neto, J. A. A., Simonelli, M. and Edwards, D. P. (2015), Would protecting tropical forest fragments provide carbon and biodiversity cobenefits under REDD+?. Glob Change Biol, 21: 3455–3468. doi:10.1111/gcb.12937


Photo: Taken with Nikon 1 in Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah, Malaysia.

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