Defining biodiverse reforestation: Why it matters for climate change mitigation and biodiversity

Samantha E. Andres, Rachel J. Standish, Paige E. Lieurance, Charlotte H. Mills, Richard J. Harper, Don W. Butler, Vanessa M. Adams, Caroline Lehmann, Sasha G. Tetu, Peter Cuneo, Catherine A. Offord, Rachael V. Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reforestation to capture and store atmospheric carbon is increasingly championed as a climate change mitigation policy response. Reforestation plantings have the potential to provide conservation co-benefits when diverse mixtures of native species are planted, and there are growing attempts to monetise biodiversity benefits from carbon reforestation projects, particularly within emerging carbon markets. But what is meant by ‘biodiverse’ across different stakeholders and groups implementing and overseeing these projects and how do these perceptions compare with long-standing scientific definitions? Here, we discuss approaches to, and definitions of, biodiversity in the context of reforestation for carbon sequestration. Our aim is to review how the concept of biodiversity is defined and applied among stakeholders (e.g., governments, carbon certifiers and farmers) and rights holders (i.e., First Nations people) engaging in reforestation, and to identify best-practice methods for restoring biodiversity in these projects. We find that some stakeholders have a vague understanding of diversity across varying levels of biological organisation (genes to ecosystems). While most understand that biodiversity underpins ecosystem functions and services, many stakeholders may not appreciate the difficulties of restoring biodiversity akin to reference ecosystems. Consequently, biodiversity goals are rarely explicit, and project goals may never be achieved because the levels of restored biodiversity are inadequate to support functional ecosystems and desired ecosystem services. We suggest there is significant value in integrating biodiversity objectives into reforestation projects and setting specific restoration goals with transparent reporting outcomes will pave the way for ensuring reforestation projects have meaningful outcomes for biodiversity, and legitimate incentive payments for biodiversity and natural capital accounting.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPlants, People, Planet
Early online date20 Sep 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sep 2022


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