Monday, October 26, 2009

Logged Forests Support Biodiversity After 15 Years of Rehabilitation, but Not If Turned Into Plantations

Active tree planting in logged tropical forests not only provides carbon-sequestering benefits, but also benefits to biodiversity, reports

(A)a new study in Conservation Biology shows that within 15 years logged forests—considered by many to be 'degraded'—can be managed in order to successfully fight both climate change and extinction.

Studying regenerating forests in northeast Borneo, Dr. David Edwards from the University of Leeds, surveyed bird species in three different forests: a protected forest that had never been logged; a forest that had been logged and then actively rehabilitated over the last 15 years; and finally a forest undergoing natural regeneration after logging.

Through bird surveys, Edwards found that when a regenerating forest is supported by managed rehabilitation efforts, such as active tree-planting, it only requires 15 years for biodiversity to return to levels near those of unlogged areas. Naturally regenerating forest showed less diversity in the same time frame.

But in Southeast Asia many logged forests are quickly turned into plantations, such as palm oil and eucalyptus, which support little biodiversity when compared to forests.

Edwards says, "this [study] could act as a strong incentive to protect logged forests under threat of deforestation for oil palm and other such crops. Selectively logged rainforests are often vulnerable because they're seen as degraded, but we've shown they can support similar levels of biodiversity to unlogged forests."

Edwards further argues that his study proves carbon trading projects within rainforests, like REDD, should be linked directly to preserving biodiversity.

"Our research shows that it is possible to have both carbon sequestration and biodiversity benefits within the same scheme," Edwards says. "There are now suggestions that carbon crediting and 'biodiversity banking' should be combined, enabling extra credits for projects that offer a biodiversity benefit. We believe this should be introduced as soon as possible, to ensure maximum support for rehabilitation schemes in the tropical rainforest." 

These are intriguing findings that provide the kind of data we need to evaluate the effects of conservation and restoration actions on ecosystem services beyond carbon sequestration -- which is the one "service" that payments for ecosystem services schemes such as REDD currently compensate landowners and countries for.

I'd be curious to know more about the impacts of these same restoration activities on the forest's water provision and filtration services...


Read about WWF's efforts to promote responsible forest-based climate protection finance>>

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