The benefits of forest diversity
Forest diversity is not only better for the environment, but also more effective at carbon storage.
It stands to reason that natural forests are much better at carbon sequestration than short-rotation plantations that are harvested regularly. However, a recent study from Columbia University’s Earth Institute exploring the benefits of forest diversity has found that forests with a mix of tree species are more reliable and stable at absorbing and storing carbon than plantations dominated by just a few tree species, both over time and across diverse conditions. Additionally, the study has found that moving away from monoculture offers ample opportunities for biodiversity conservation.
Greater stability of carbon capture in natural forests is one of several reasons why policies for protecting and regenerating such forests should be prioritised over raising plantation monocultures.Osuri et al. (2020)
Although it may be simpler and more cost-effective to plant only one or two tree species in reforestation, forest diversity will result in increased carbon capture and far greater environmental benefits. At TreeStory, we are working with landowners to both restructure existing monoculture plantations towards greater species diversity and to plant diverse native woodlands across Scotland.
One of these projects is the transformation of a monoculture block of largely Sitka spruce on the Isle of Mull into a thriving, diverse mix of species. The Mull and Iona Community Trust bought the Ardura Forest plantation in September 2019 with an aim to increase biodiversity and provide facilities in the forest for the community. Much of the area within the forest is officially designated as Ancient Woodland with remnants of oak, holly and birch within the Sitka spruce.
Our consultants have been working with the community to increase forest diversity in Ardura, felling Sitka spruce blocks in stages and replanting using careful selection of appropriate native species best suited for the different parts of the forest. The planting will be done sensitively with respect to other flora and fauna, in particular rare and protected species of raptors like Hen Harrier and butterflies and moths like the Marsh Fritillary.
Later this year, we will be launching our EcoCarbon platform, allowing businesses and individuals to invest in carbon capture that is both ecologically positive and carbon negative.