Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Big data project reveals where carbon-stocking projects in Africa provide the greatest benefits

19.12.2013
It is increasingly recognized that climate change has the potential to threaten people and nature, and that it is imperative to tackle the drivers of climate change, namely greenhouse gases.

One way to slow climate change is to increase the number of trees on Earth, as they, through photosynthesis, take up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, converting it to carbon products which are stored in the vegetation (in the form of wood, roots, leaves) and oxygen.


This is a photo from a carbon forestation project in Patako, Senegal. The project is being coordinated through the EU-funded Undesert Project. It involves planting indigenous trees in a degraded area and getting carbon credits from these.

Credit: Fatimata Niang-Diop

New forests continue to accumulate carbon for hundreds of years. Therefore, forestation projects are one way of generating 'carbon credits', which are tradable units on the carbon market. The more carbon is stored in the vegetation, the more profitable such projects are.

Restoring forests should bring especially high carbon returns in areas where plants grow fast and to big sizes, but where past disturbances such as deforestation, fires, and degradation have resulted in much of the vegetation being destroyed, because the difference between what is there and what could potentially be there is so large. However, little information exists on where such areas are, and how big their carbon storage potential is.

Researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa have now developed a method to calculate the difference between the potential carbon that could be stored in vegetation if there were no disturbances and the carbon that is currently stored in vegetation in tropical Africa.

The researchers based their analysis on a satellite-derived map of current carbon being stored in vegetation. Combining it with data on environmental factors that affect plant growth, such as climate and soil, they could model the maximum amount of carbon that could be stored in vegetation across tropical Africa. By subtracting the actual amount of carbon currently stored in vegetation from this, they could thus show where in Africa carbon-stocking projects would be particularly profitable.

People and biodiversity factors are also important

In reality, such a map of where most carbon could be stored is probably of limited use for deciding where to plan carbon projects, because there may be a number of constraints to setting up forestation projects to stock carbon. For example, a densely populated agricultural area with high levels of rainfall and temperatures might bring high carbon returns; however, it would be unlikely to be profitable as land value in these areas is high, and because it would be problematic to have to relocate people. Therefore, such constraints must be considered when planning carbon forests.

In addition, it might be a good idea to consider whether there are wider benefits to setting up such projects.

"We used our map which showed where carbon forests would bring high returns, to ask where carbon-stocking by forestation would not only be highly profitable, but where it would also minimize conflict with people, and benefit biodiversity and people", says Michelle Greve from the University of Pretoria, who led the project as part of her PhD at Aarhus University.

"Therefore, we applied a method to optimally select areas which would not only have high carbon returns, but would also conserve native biodiversity and support ecosystem services, that is, services that the environment provides which benefit humans. The areas also had to have low land value and human population density, so as to reduce conflict with people, and high levels of governance, because setting up projects in areas with high levels of violence and corruption would be too risky and have too low chances of success", Michelle Greve explains.

Michelle Greve and her colleagues could thus identify areas where carbon projects would have wider co-benefits. An example of an area that showed high carbon returns, but was less important when these other factors were considered, was the region around Lake Victoria in East Africa. The area currently has little vegetation biomass due to heavy degradation, but has an excellent climate for tree growth, and thus has a high potential for carbon stocking through forests. However, it does not support as high biodiversity as some other areas and, more importantly, it is also densely populated by people who practice intensive agriculture in the area. So setting aside land here to plant carbon forests would not be optimal.

Rather, regions of the Upper Guinean rainforests of West Africa, and the Lower Guinean rainforests which are situated on the coast of Nigeria and Cameroon, were identified as having more optimal combinations of high carbon stocking potential, high co-benefits for wildlife conservation and humans and high feasibility.

"There is a great need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Our approach exemplifies how strategies to do this can be targeted to optimize feasibility and co-benefits for biodiversity and people", concludes Jens-Christian Svenning, professor at Aarhus University and supervisor on the PhD project.

The article "Spatial optimization of carbon-stocking projects across Africa integrating stocking potential with co-benefits and feasibility" will be published in Nature Communications on 19 December 2013.

Contact information:

Michelle Greve
University of Pretoria
Plant Science Department
Private Bag X200028 Hatfield
South Africa
Tel: +27 12 4202487 or +27 76 6296826
E-mail: michelle_greve@yahoo.com
Prof. Jens-Christian Svenning
Aarhus University
Department of Bioscience
8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Tel: +45 28992304
E-mail: svenning@biology.au.dk

Michelle Greve | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.au.dk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

nachricht Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>