Rainforest trees better for environment

July 30, 2010 at 8:37 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, July 30 (UPI) -- Australian researchers say reforestation of damaged rainforests is better for the environment than planting single-species plantations in their place.

Mixed-species rainforests are much more efficient at capturing carbon than softwood monoculture plantations, an article published in the journal Ecological Management & Restoration says.

Monoculture plantations are grown for industrial purposes and are used as a cheap and abundant source of resources such as timber and rubber. The plantations are highly controversial, however, with some ecologists describing the lack of diversity as a "green desert."

"We found that restoration planting stored significantly more carbon … than the monoculture plantations of native conifers and tended to store more than mixed species timber plantations," Dr. John Kanowski from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy said.

These findings challenge the existing view of monoculture plantations. The Australian government had predicted such plantations would absorb 40 percent more carbon than restoration plantings in northern Australia, but the study demonstrated that carbon stocks were higher in restoration plantings than in either mixed-species or monoculture plantations.

Researchers acknowledge restoration projects are more expensive.

"In order to be an attractive prospect for the markets new reforestation techniques and designs are going to be required," Kanowski said. "New designs will have to ensure that restoration can provide a habitat for rainforest life and store carbon at a cost comparable to industrial monoculture."

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