Diverse, species-rich forests store double the carbon compared to their monoculture counterparts

I’ve always loved the striking greens of rustling, diverse forest canopies. So I just can’t help but be a little sad when I see the bare, naked branches of leafless deciduous trees throughout the grey winters.

Desperately needing my nature ‘fix’, I find myself gravitating towards evergreen forests during those long months, soaking in the sweet smell of pine that hangs in the air and trying to identify the different species looming high above me.

But something struck me one day — these evergreen coniferous forests, while beautiful, lack biodiversity. They’re actually largely monocultures — dominated primarily by one species — and extremely limited in terms of species richness. Just think about how many bird species you’ll find; often few, and largely on the edges (and that’s just down to the ‘edge effect‘ where there is increased diversity).

Fantastic Forests: The Carbon Busters

The mystery of the forest doesn’t end there; Trees aren’t just the lungs of the world, but are amazing at sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it through their roots – sequestering it into the deep soils below.

However… not all forests are created equal.

Findings from a recent 2018 study by climate scientists has demonstrated that the ability of single-species forests to lock in atmospheric carbon is significantly less than mixed species forests.

Researchers conducted an experiment comparing two plots of planted varied trees versus a plot with just a single species. It was found that the mixed species plots were significantly better at sequestering carbon, adding nutrients to the soil and increasing biodiversity both below and above ground.

Polycultures have been proven to consistently be beneficial for the environment in a wide variety of ways. Although forests are a critical patchwork of our global system, we must consider tree planting schemes and manual reforestation efforts carefully if we want to do our best battling climate change.