Carbon farming via assisted natural regeneration as a cost-effective mechanism for restoring biodiversity in agricultural landscapes

Evans, Megan C., Carwardine, Josie, Fensham, Rod J., Butler, Don W., Wilson, Kerrie A., Possingham, Hugh P. and Martin, Tara G. (2015) Carbon farming via assisted natural regeneration as a cost-effective mechanism for restoring biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Environmental Science and Policy, 50 114-129. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2015.02.003

Author Evans, Megan C.
Carwardine, Josie
Fensham, Rod J.
Butler, Don W.
Wilson, Kerrie A.
Possingham, Hugh P.
Martin, Tara G.
Title Carbon farming via assisted natural regeneration as a cost-effective mechanism for restoring biodiversity in agricultural landscapes
Journal name Environmental Science and Policy   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1873-6416
Publication date 2015-06-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.02.003
Open Access Status
Volume 50
Start page 114
End page 129
Total pages 16
Place of publication New York, NY United States
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Carbon farming in agricultural landscapes may provide a cost-effective mechanism for offsetting carbon emissions while delivering co-benefits for biodiversity through ecosystem restoration. Reforestation of landscapes using native tree and shrub species, termed environmental plantings, has been recognized as a carbon offset methodology which can contribute to biodiversity conservation as well as climate mitigation. However, far less attention has been paid to the potential for assisted natural regeneration in areas of low to intermediate levels of degradation, where regenerative capacity still remains and little intervention would be required to restore native vegetation. In this study, we considered the economics of carbon farming in the state of Queensland, Australia, where 30.6 million hectares of relatively recently deforested agricultural landscapes may be suitable for carbon farming. Using spatially explicit estimates of the rate of carbon sequestration and the opportunity cost of agricultural production, we used a discounted cash flow analysis to examine the economic viability of assisted natural regeneration relative to environmental plantings. We found that the average minimum carbon price required to make assisted natural regeneration viable was 60% lower than what was required to make environmental plantings viable ($65.8 t CO2e−1 compared to $108.8 t CO2e−1). Assisted natural regeneration could sequester 1.6 to 2.2 times the amount of carbon possible compared to environmental plantings alone over a range of hypothetical carbon prices and assuming a moderate 5% discount rate. Using a combination of methodologies, carbon farming was a viable land use in over 2.3% of our study extent with a low $5 t CO2e−1 carbon price, and up to 10.5 million hectares (34%) with a carbon price of $50 t CO2e−1. Carbon sequestration supply and economic returns generated by assisted natural regeneration were relatively robust to variation in establishment costs and discount rates due to the utilization of low-cost techniques to reestablish native vegetation. Our study highlights the potential utility of assisted natural regeneration as a reforestation approach which can cost-effectively deliver both carbon and biodiversity benefits.
Keyword Carbon farming
Assisted natural regeneration
Managed regrowth
Environmental plantings
Agricultural landscapes
Biodiversity conservation
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 6 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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