A focus on conservation of high carbon landscapes via the proposed REDD mechanism could come at a detriment to biodiversity, argues a new paper published in Carbon Balance and Management.
The research, led by Gary Paoli of Daemeter Consulting in Indonesia, analyzed other studies on biodiversity, vegetation types, and carbon emissions. It found that carbon-dense peat swamps, likely a focal point for REDD programs in Indonesia, “do not coincide with areas supporting the highest concentrations of threatened biodiversity,” according to a statement from the University of Kent.
“The highest carbon savings are not necessarily located in places with the highest levels of species diversity,” said Paoli, in a statement.
Draining and clearing of peat forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Lowland forests, among the most threatened and biodiverse ecosystems in Indonesia, hold only a fraction of the carbon found in peat forests, which store large amounts of carbon in their soils.
“Peat swamp forests attract the bulk of REDD funds – they hold around 8 times more carbon than other lowland forests, and provide habitat for high profile species such as orang-utan, tigers and Asian elephants,” said Matthew Struebig of the University of Kent. “However, when we look at overall numbers of plants, mammals and birds, especially species of greatest conservation concern, we find that peat forests typically support lower densities and fewer species than other lowland forest types.”
To avoid REDD diverting conservation funds away from endangered species and landscapes, the authors recommend governments set specific ecosystem and biodiversity conservation targets for all native ecosystem types. The authors suggest REDD could provide co-financing to “redefine acceptable land-use practices within priority areas needed to fill biodiversity conservation gaps.”
“If such a national planning process were made a pre-requisite for multi-lateral and bi-lateral REDD funding, and REDD payments linked not only to verified emission reductions but also biodiversity co-benefits, then net positive impacts on biodiversity would be ensured, and the negative potential impacts we describe would be reduced,” the authors conclude.