Afforestation could result in loss of biologically valuable forests, be more harmful than beneficial says study

Afforestation is considered to be an efficient way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere but a study finds that the carbon-capture potential was maybe overrated.


A new study now finds that planting a huge number of trees could actually backfire and result in the loss of biologically valuable natural forests.

The results of the study were published on 22 June in the journal Nature Sustainability.

According to a report in Phys.org, even though afforestation or large-scale planting of new forests in previously tree-free areas is considered to be an efficient way to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the new study, conducted by a researcher from the Colorado State University, finds that the carbon-capture potential of afforestation may actually be overrated.

 lead to biodiversity loss and a bit of climate change upside.

Afforestation could lead to biodiversity loss and a bit of climate change upside.

As per the report, the study shows that the rations of soil organic carbon underneath afforested areas vary greatly across different climates and ecosystems and depend on factors like tree species, land0use history and soil type.

According to a report in ScienceDaily, an initiative such as the Trillion Trees campaign by the US Congress could actually lead to biodiversity loss and a bit of climate change upside.

Co-author of the study Eric Lambin, a George and Setsuko Ishiyama Provostial Professor in Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences said that if policies to incentivize tree plantations are not properly designed and enforced, there is a huge risk of wasting public money and also releasing more carbon and losing biodiversity.

A BBC report states that authors of the new study looked at the example of Chile, where a decree subsidising tree planting ran from 1974 to 2012 and was widely seen as a globally influential afforestation policy.

They found that while the law subsidised 75 percent of the costs of planting new forests, there were landowners who simply replaced native forests with more profitable tree plantations.

According to the researchers, authors point out that since Chile's native forests are rich in biodiversity and store large amounts of carbon, the subsidy scheme failed to increase the carbon stores and accelerated biodiversity loss.

The study authors looked at 11.000 soil samples taken from afforested plots and found that in carbon poor soils, adding new trees increased the density of organic carbon. However, where the soil was already rich in carbon, adding new trees decreased the density.


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