Land Sector Package

Adding diversity to carbon plantings

Biodiversity Fund Case Study

Location: Dubbo, NSW
Funding: $1,556,500 (excluding GST)
Partners: CO2 Australia Limited and local landholders

In a unique partnership between a commercial entity and the Australian government, this project will determine the impact of diverse species plantings on carbon sequestration and biodiversity, and provide and enhance corridors for vulnerable native species.

CO2 Australia is the largest provider of dedicated carbon sequestration plantings in Australia, and currently manages more than 26,000 hectares of plantings across NSW, Victoria and WA - equating to over 39 million trees.

As a fully accredited provider of carbon permits, it has found that the variety of productive species that can be planted to meet carbon project requirements is, presently, limited.

"At present, carbon sequestration scheme regulations constrain the number of species that can be planted in a commercial project. As an environmental services company, working with the Biodiversity Fund allows us to enhance the biodiversity value of our carbon forests at local and broader scales," explains Martin Crevatin, CO2 Australia's Manager Forestry.

Not all of the land is suitable for carbon sequestration plantings, and those pockets of vacant land provide an opportunity to enhance the biodiversity value of the plantings. CO2 Australia is also interested in testing whether diverse plantings could provide additional carbon offset results.

Martin Crevatin, Manager, Forestry inspecting 'The Meadows'. Low to mid layer plants amongst recently established carbon forest sink plantings on 'The Meadows'. Dams, such as this one on 'The Meadows', provides a focal point for wildlife and forms an important element in the revegetation planning for the properties.
Pockets of vacant land provide an opportunity to enhance the biodiversity value of the plantings

Balancing carbon and biodiversity goals

"The Biodiversity Fund has a primary goal of improving biodiversity, with an element of carbon management. Our projects focus on carbon first, but we want to enhance biodiversity outcomes. Funding will allow us to do this," says Martin.

CO2 Australia's funding proposal targeted four properties near Dubbo in NSW, with a combined land area of 2,500ha, and they have earmarked just under 1,400ha for biodiversity enhancement through plantings and targeted management activities over a six year period.

"By adding diverse plantings and encouraging a lower layer of shrubs and grasses, we'll develop corridors from one remnant vegetation stand to another, and these linkages will contribute to the protection of vulnerable native species," says Martin.

In the fragmented agricultural landscape, these corridors will also provide better resources for target conservation species, such as the black glossy cockatoo and superb parrot. "Ultimately we will improve the land's biodiversity value by filling in the gaps."

The project will boost biodiversity in four areas:

  1. Riparian plantings, around water bodies such as creeks and streams,
  2. Re-vegetation plantings in other areas not suited for carbon plantings,
  3. Enrichment plantings, adding other local species within the carbon sequestration planting areas
  4. Remnant vegetation restoration, monitoring and controlling weeds and pests to improve the health of remnant vegetation and, in turn, the broader landscape.

Martin says all areas will benefit from being surrounded by carbon and biodiversity plantings. "By protecting these remnant areas we also reduce exposure and the risk of eroding their long term sustainability."

Challenges in seeding

One of the biggest challenges for a project of this scale is the availability of seed to ensure the right species is planted in the right area. Not all tree species produce a seed crop every year, so there's a risk of missing the cycle, or only having access to a low viability crop. Seed supply will affect the timing of other activities.

"We're working with nature here, and it's fickle," says Martin. He hopes to start research, planning and monitoring operations this year, collect seed over the summer and raise nursery stock in 2013 for planting in 2014.

By planting all properties at the same time, the team can monitor the impact effectively and measure the productivity of multi-species plantings for carbon accounting. "Maximising carbon sequestration and biodiversity is the challenge, a challenge we look forward to."

The project is expected to provide economic and social benefits, as well as environmental. As a commercial enterprise, CO2 Australia will provide new job opportunities in the local community, including contractors for site preparation, spray control, fencing and planting as well as seed collection and seedling production with local nurseries and building of nest boxes with community groups.

Low to mid layer plants amongst recently established carbon forest sink plantings on 'The Meadows'. The rejuvenation of these properties has begun with carbon sink forests planted during the winter of 2011 and 2012. Native green bird perched in a tree on 'The Meadows'.
This project will determine the impact of diverse species plantings on carbon sequestration and biodiversity

A commercial partnership focused on results

Martin says policies around carbon pricing are creating opportunities for new business models that allow companies like CO2 Australia to manage re-vegetation work as a profitable enterprise.

"With this funding, we may see some additional carbon benefits in land we might not have otherwise planted, in the re-vegetation sites," he says. "This may help us find other productive species for carbon sequestration, as well as provide broader landscape and environmental benefits."

"This is the first time a partnership of this scale as been developed in Australia, and I think it's a positive story that shows we can enhance environmental benefits through commercial management of carbon." he concludes.