Restoring damaged rainforest is a more effective way of capturing carbon than cultivating industrial, single-species tree plantations, according to a new study. After testing three types of plantations in northeastern Australia — monoculture plantations of native conifers, mixed plantations, and restored rainforests containing a diversity of trees — Australian researchers found that restored forests were more densely wooded than monoculture plantations, had larger trees, and captured 106 tons of CO2 per hectare, compared with 62 tons stored in timber plantations, according to the study published in the journal Ecological Management & Restoration.
The findings come at a time when nations and companies explore ways to offset greenhouse gas emissions through preservation and restoration of tropical forests. Forestry scientists are concerned that investment dollars will be spent on single-species plantations rather than the restoration of diverse forests, said John Kanowski, an ecologist with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. While timber plantations are a cheap source of abundant wood and rubber, some ecologists say they are little more than “green deserts” that lack biodiversity.