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Co-benefits of forest carbon projects in Southeast Asia

February 17, 2022
News item image Protecting carbon-rich forests in South-east Asia have multiple co-benefits for people and nature.

Vadya Sarira et al 2022.

A new study in Nature Sustainability by researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) reveals the social and environmental benefits of forest protection in South-east Asia.

This region contains 196 million ha of tropical forests, many of which are under threat from agricultural expansion and other economic activities. Large-scale carbon projects in the region focus on avoided deforestation as a nature-based climate solution, with countries such as Cambodia committing to a ~60% reduction of their emissions from forestry in their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030. Protecting forests through carbon projects throughout Southeast Asia could avoid 835 ± 348 MtCO₂e of emissions from deforestation across the region per year

In addition to the carbon benefits, the study found that people living in or around forests within carbon projects experience co-benefits including pollination service for pollinator-dependent agriculture and water quality regulation, as well as biodiversity conservation.

Forest carbon projects in proximity to agricultural lands provide important foraging and nesting habitats for wild pollinators, which both ensure ecosystem health and support pollinator-dependent agricultural production and nutritional services within the immediate vicinity. Forest absorption of nutrients such as nitrogen also reduces the amount of nutrients that flow into freshwater habitats within the area’s watersheds and thereby improve the quality of water flowing downstream, reducing the need for added treatment of potable water. Additionally, protecting forests through carbon projects in the region would conserve 25 ± 3 Mha of KBAs (sites that contribute greatly to the global persistence of biodiversity), half of all terrestrial forest KBAs in the region.

The study reveals that investment in the protection of forests, their natural capital and their ongoing provision of services through carbon projects enables a financially viable and sustainable means of addressing other socio-economic and environmental issues beyond climate change. This demonstrates the potential of carbon finance to meet global climate and human development ambitions.

Read the full Nature Sustainability paper, Co-benefits of forest carbon projects in Southeast Asia.