A baby orangutan in North Sumatra. The species is critically endangered. Photo: Rhett A. Butler
In Indonesia, preferential targeting of REDD+ projects in high-carbon areas won’t do much for biodiversity.
That’s because areas important for carbon correlate poorly with areas important for biodiversity in the country, a new study shows.
The researchers urged future REDD+ planning to take that reality into account.
Despite their below-average carbon content, highly threatened lowland forests with high biodiversity should remain a priority for REDD+, which seeks to incentivize developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
“Biodiversity-specific management will need to be incorporated in the planning, design, and implementation of REDD+ on the ground because protecting existing forest carbon stocks alone will not automatically protect other forest values,” reads the paper, titled “Spatial patterns of carbon, biodiversity, deforestation threat, and REDD+ projects in Indonesia.”
Actually, the area covered by REDD+ projects in carbon-rich peat swamp forests is still “much smaller” than that of projects located on mineral soil, pointed out the researchers, who attributed that distribution to conservation NGOs’ heavy involvement in REDD+ development in Indonesia.
REDD+ in Tanzania and Brazil also focus on high-biodiversity areas, according to the paper.
The research was meant to address claims that REDD+ offers huge opportunities for biodiversity conservation, especially in the lead-up to the UN climate change conference scheduled for the end of this year.
Analysis in Madagascar and Bolivia have also showed little congruence between areas important for carbon and biodiversity, which is “perhaps not surprising because of the fundamental ecological differences … between carbon and biodiversity,” the paper says.
“There are concerns that a lack of congruence between carbon and biodiversity could result in REDD+ investments focusing on high carbon areas which will put biodiversity at risk.”
The researchers also found that most Indonesian REDD+ projects were not located in areas under a high threat of deforestation, which “limits the opportunity to achieve the greatest benefits for both emissions reductions and biodiversity conservation.
“The patterns of biodiversity, threat, and locations of REDD+ projects in Indonesia suggest that biodiversity co-benefits could be achieved through REDD+ in Indonesia, especially if future expansion focused on areas under high deforestation threat.”
- Murray, J. P., Grenyer, R., Wunder, S., Raes, N. and Jones, J. P.G. (2015), Spatial patterns of carbon, biodiversity, deforestation threat, and REDD+ projects in Indonesia. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12500