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  • CarbonCrop Team

Climate-Smart Forestry: Going beyond carbon forestry



In our collective effort against climate change, every action counts. Climate-smart forestry stands out as a strategy, blending environmental stewardship with economic sustainability. This concept doesn’t just revolve around planting trees for carbon credits; it’s about creating forests that actively combat climate change, improve resilience, and support economic growth.


Here’s how it works and why it matters, especially for those involved in New Zealand's food and fibre sectors and looking to engage with carbon markets.


Understanding Climate-Smart Forestry

Climate-smart forestry is a holistic approach to forest management with three main goals:


Reducing Carbon Emissions

By employing practices that absorb more carbon than conventional methods, these forests help dial back the planet’s carbon footprint.


Increasing Resilience

These forests are designed to withstand the impacts of climate change, ensuring their survival and function for generations.


Supporting Economies

They align environmental sustainability with economic viability, making it possible for communities to thrive alongside forests.


To fully appreciate the value of climate-smart forestry, it's helpful to understand what we want to improve on. Climate "awful" forestry practices often overlook the long-term health of the forest and its ecosystem, potentially causing more harm than good. Examples include:


Monoculture Plantations

Planting a single tree species across large areas can reduce biodiversity, make forests more susceptible to pests and diseases, limiting the overall resilience.


Unsustainable Harvesting

Practices like clear-cutting, or other forms of aggressive harvesting, without adequate reforestation efforts can lead to soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and reduced carbon capture capacity.


Neglecting Understory Biodiversity

Overlooking the importance of a rich understory can impact a forest's ability to support wildlife, maintain soil health, and regenerate after disturbances.


The Case for Mixed Species: Exotic and Native Trees

The dialogue surrounding climate-smart forestry often pits exotic against native species. However, it's not a matter of 'good' versus 'bad.' Both can be climate 'awful' if not managed with care and intention. Exotic species, while sometimes seen as invasive, can be instrumental in enhancing carbon capture when introduced responsibly. On the other hand, relying solely on native reforestation in climate-smart efforts can present challenges, like slower growth rates offering less immediate carbon sequestration benefits.


Finding the right balance is crucial. For instance, integrating exotic species like redwoods with native forests can harness the strengths of both. Thoughtfully selected exotics can boost carbon capture and support native undergrowth, enriching biodiversity and forest resilience.


The Way Forward


The path to widespread adoption of climate-smart forestry, while promising, is filled with challenges. Policy uncertainties and market fluctuations can deter progress. Yet, the integration of climate-smart practices with carbon markets presents a fertile ground for innovation and growth.


By embracing these practices, we can move towards a more sustainable and resilient future. A future where forests are not only valued for their carbon sequestration but also for their contribution to biodiversity and economic prosperity. The goal is clear: combine the strengths of native and exotic species in a unified strategy that advances our climate objectives while preserving our natural heritage.


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