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Maximizing the Environmental Benefits of Carbon Farming through Ecosystem Service Delivery

In a recent article in BioScience, researchers argue that land-use decisions need to take into account the multiple impacts of revegetating agricultural landscapes. If decision making fails to address the wide range of issues of importance for landscapes, carbon farming (carbon markets and related international schemes that allow payments to landholders for planting trees) may have harmful effects, such as degrading ecosystems and causing food supply problems. The main argument of the paper is therefore that institutions engaged in carbon farming schemes should move beyond a carbon-only focus and consider the cobenefits and drawbacks of revegetation, while involving local inhabitants, not just private landowners, in policy decisions.

The research assessed various the challenges and successes of different carbon farming practices. Some of the successful examples they describe include agroforestry, planting strips of trees on farms to integrate trees into cropping systems and revegetation of marginal or crop land, practices that can sequester carbon while also yielding a broad spectrum of environmental benefits. The particular benefits here include: reduced pollution outflow and erosion, and better wind protection, pest control, and pollination. 

On the other hand, where profit maximisation is the only consideration, the researchers conclude that this can give rise to monoculture plantations, which do not support biodiversity and provide few environmental benefits to local inhabitants. Finally the researchers emphasize that schemes that have local participation and buy-in are more likely to be successful over the long term, because they can draw on local knowledge about trees likely to thrive and will remain popular.

The abstract is unfortunately not available.


Brenda B. Lin, Sarina Macfadyen, Annar renwick, Saula Cunningham, Andnancya Schellhorn. Maximizing the Environmental Benefits of Carbon Farming through Ecosystem Service Delivery. BioScience, October 2013

You can also read more on this story in Science Daily by clicking here.

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