Let’s get one thing straight: Planting trees and their diverse diversity is a great way to improve air quality, promote biodiversity and absorb harmful carbon dioxide emissions from the air. It is a crucial component in combating the effects of anthropogenic influences Climate change and planting efforts must be increased to avert environmental disaster.
However, when it’s done incorrect However, it could actually have a very negative impact on our environment. Unfortunately, this could be the case with carbon offset plantings – a popular way for large companies to offset their carbon footprint. An article published today in the magazine Trends in ecology and evolution that CO2-compensated tree plantations found can actually lead to results Loss Biodiversity is being compromised and otherwise healthy tropical ecosystems are being decimated.
“Tropical ecosystems provide a wide range of functions and services to society beyond carbon sequestration,” lead author Jesus Aguirre-Guitierrez, a researcher at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, told The Daily Beast. He added: “It is critical to move away from the narrow focus on carbon and adopt a more holistic perspective if we are to effectively protect and restore natural ecosystems.”
The problem has to do with a few factors, including the type of trees planted. While most tropical ecosystems have incredible biodiversity and are home to a variety of different tree and plant species, carbon offset plantings typically use only a few tree species – the most popular being cedar, mahogany, silky oak, teak and black twig. These trees also happen to be the most commonly grown for economic purposes such as lumber and pulp.
The mass planting of these plants in an ecosystem, while financially beneficial, results in a monoculture that decimates biodiversity and ultimately harms the very areas it is intended to help.
The place where the trees are planted also plays a big role in their impact. Carbon-offset planting measures can typically be done in two different ways: through reforestation, which is the planting of trees in areas that have been damaged by natural or human-caused deforestation; and reforestation, which involves planting trees in areas that are either not degraded or have never been forested before, such as savannahs or grasslands.
While reforestation can play an important role in improving the environment, it can also harm ecosystems by creating monocultures and destroying carbon sinks. For example, places like grasslands and savannahs already store large amounts of carbon underground. Planting trees in these areas would result in carbon being stored above ground, while also making them more vulnerable to problems such as drought and wildfires. The authors also found that a 40 percent increase in forest cover in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna led to a 30 percent loss in plant and insect biodiversity.
“Reforestation significantly alters ecosystems and places them in conditions to which they are not naturally adapted,” explained Aguirre-Guitierrez. He added: “For example, in Africa there are widespread efforts to reforest grasslands and savannahs. However, these ecosystems already fulfill crucial functions. Their reforestation could reduce their natural ability to sequester carbon in the soil due to the suppression of natural fire regimes.”
But private companies such as fossil fuel companies, AI technology start-ups and automakers all rely on carbon-offset plantings via carbon credits to achieve “net-zero carbon emissions.” These include companies such as Chevron, Comcast, Apple, Volkswagen, Microsoft and Alphabet.
Additionally, the planting programs often result in very little carbon sequestration compared to what these companies emit annually. “The current trend of carbon-focused tree planting puts us on the path to large-scale biotic and functional homogenization with low carbon gain,” the authors write. “An area equivalent to the combined area of the USA, Great Britain, China and Russia would have to be forested to sequester one year’s emissions.”
However, companies will continue to use these carbon credits as they can appear to be doing their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In reality, the best thing they can do is work towards preserving existing ecosystems and directly reducing their actual carbon footprint.
“Why not prioritize the conservation and protection of natural ecosystems, keeping them in a healthy state and restoring altered ecosystems?” said Aguirre-Guitierrez. “Combined with a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions, this approach could significantly contribute to our efforts to combat climate change.”