Carbon farming schemes should consider multiple cobenefits

Carbon markets and related international schemes that allow payments to landholders for planting trees, sometimes called carbon farming, are intended to support sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere.

But they will have harmful effects, such as degrading ecosystems and causing food supply problems, if other benefits and disbenefits from revegetating agricultural landscapes are not also taken into account in land-use decisions, according to an article published in the October issue of BioScience.

Brenda B. Lin of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and her colleagues assessed a variety of ways that people have attempted carbon farming. Simple maximization of profit can lead landholders accessing carbon markets to create monoculture plantations, which do not support biodiversity and provide few environmental benefits to local inhabitants. But alternatives such as planting strips of trees on farms, agroforestry—integrating trees into cropping systems—and revegetation of marginal or crop land can sequester carbon while also yielding a broad spectrum of environmental benefits.

These benefits may include, for example, reduced pollution outflow and erosion, and better wind protection, pest control, and pollination. What is more, 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. Lin and her colleagues urge organizers of carbon farming schemes to move beyond a carbon-only focus and consider cobenefits of revegetation, while involving local inhabitants, not just private landowners, in policy decisions.

BioScience, published monthly, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS; http://www.aibs.org). BioScience is a forum for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is a meta-level organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents nearly 160 member societies and organizations. The article by Lin and colleagues can be accessed ahead of print as an uncorrected proof at http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/ until early October.

The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the October 2013 issue of BioScience is as follows. These are now published ahead of print.

Maximizing the Environmental Benefits of Carbon Farming through Ecosystem Service Delivery by Brenda B. Lin, Sarina Macfadyen, Anna R. Renwick, Saul A. Cunningham, and Nancy A. Schellhorn

Feral Cats and Biodiversity Conservation: The Urgent Prioritization of Island Management by Manuel Nogales, Eric Vidal, Félix M. Medina, Elsa Bonnaud, Bernie R. Tershy, Karl J. Campbell, and E rika S. Zavaleta

Unity and Disunity in Biology by Karl J. Niklas, Thomas G. Owens, and Randy O. Wayne

Predicting Publication Success for Biologists by William F. Laurance, D. Carolina Useche, Susan G. Laurance, and Corey J. A. Bradshaw

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