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Returning tropical farmland to forest would save about 175 tonnes per hectare

Posted by gmarkets on 14 September, 2007

British researchers had calculated how much in carbon emissions would be saved per hectare of land by 2030 if that land grew a range of biofuel crops, such as sugar cane for ethanol production and canola for diesel production, reported The Mercury (8/9/2007, p. M7).

Forest creates greater savings than plantations do: In all cases, they found that planting crops for biofuel would save carbon emissions, with sugar cane giving the biggest saving (about 60 tonnes of carbon per hectare) and canola the smallest (about 20 tonnes), the nespaper reported. The researchers addressed the question of what the carbon savings would be if, instead of planting biofuel crops, the land was returned to true forest, that is, not a plantation. Returning tropical farmland to forest would save about 175 tonnes per hectare, the study found; and returning temperate farmland (as in Tasmania) to forest would save about 100 tonnes.

Net release of carbon: In some countries, forest is actively being cleared to plant biofuel crops. In Malaysia and Indonesia, for example, tropical forest was being cleared to plant palm oil for biodiesel. The researchers calculated that clearing these forests resulted in an addition of around 200 tonnes of carbon per hectare. And when the amount of carbon saved by the planting of palm for biofuel was subtracted from this, there was still net release of carbon, not a saving. Based on this analysis, the researchers suggested this strategy:

• fossil fuel use should be minimised by aggressively promoting fuel efficiency until non-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen, become reality;

• clearfelling of forest should stop because this releases the large soil reserve of carbon to the atmosphere; and

• excess farmland should be returned to true forest rather than used for the production of biofuels.

The Mercury, 8/9/2007, p. M7

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