Pulpwood plantation as a carbon sink

February 27, 2012

The development of pulpwood plantations on degraded peat land, or land that had been stripped of natural forest, can contribute significantly to increased absorption of greenhouse gases (GHGs), according to a study that was carried out by a team of Indonesian academics from the Institut Pertanian Bogor at Bogor Agricultural University.

Dr Mahmud Raimadoya, whose team carried out the study, found that using radar systems, along with satellite imagery and on-the-ground verification, pulpwood plantations on degraded peat land actually increase carbon absorption, greater than that of natural forest in the same area. Therefore, it is believed that there are important lessons here, in terms of forestry management, not just for Indonesia but other countries as well.

The study was carried out on an area of 600 000 hectares in South Sumatra that was largely destroyed by a massive fire in 1997-1998, due to the El Nino effect. Asia Pulp & Paper then developed the denuded area into a pulpwood plantation. Using airborne and spatial radar technology, the research team evaluated the impact of pulpwood plantation on the degraded land over four distinct periods: before the forest fires; after the forest fires; during the early plantation period; and during the recent plantation period when harvesting and re-planting operations were carried out, from 2009 onwards.

The study showed that the carbon content in 2009 (pulpwood plantations) was relatively higher than 1995 (natural forest), when the forest quality was still in good condition, and still considerably better than 2000 (forest fire) and 2004 (post-forest fire). The plantation comprised two acacia species planted at 1 666 stems/ha at 2 x 3 m espacement on a five-year rotation.

This showed the positive impact that sustainable forestry management can have on climate change. Responsibly managed forests are re-planted and re-grow, absorbing more carbon dioxide, and so the cycle continues.

Along with increased carbon absorption, the findings of the study specifically showed that, in the period 2004-2009, the development of pulpwood plantation managed to successfully improve land cover significantly.

Published in December 2011

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