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Bioperversity in the Plantation

By David Salt

A narrow focus on carbon in commercial plantations could yield a number of unwelcome surprises.

David Salt is a science writer at the Australian National University and is part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Like it or not, the carbon economy is coming to town. No one can predict exactly what it will look like, but the bottom line is that emitting or capturing carbon is going to have a price.

One of the expected consequences of this is that income from carbon offsetting will drive major land management changes. Land owners will be shifting land to higher carbon storage states by transforming the vegetation cover. Many people say this is a good thing, with the potential to restore degraded land and better protect biodiversity.

But a growing number of scientists are also advising caution – that a narrow focus on carbon storage has the potential to create significant negative environmental outcomes if the protection and enhancement of other values such as biodiversity are not explicitly considered. Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) have even come up with a name for it: “bioperversity”.

When it comes to locking up carbon, one popular strategy frequently put forward is the establishment of massive commercial-scale tree plantations transforming whole landscapes. Such ventures, it is proposed, lock up carbon while at the same time growing a valued commodity. The claim of other associated environmental benefits is also often thrown in.

“Incentives to sequester carbon through establishing plantations are likely...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.