World Rainforest Movement

Dutch carbon sink plantations: adding to the problem

The social and environmental impacts of tree monocultures in the Andean Páramos of Ecuador in a project carried out by the Dutch consortium FACE are analyzed in a thesis work for a PhD in Environmental Sciences of the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain. The author -Verónica Vidal- worked during several months in that grasslands region of Ecuador, inhabited by indigenous peasants, and which is capital for the maintenance of the hydrological cycle and as well as hosting high levels of biodiversity.

The conclusions state that there is a lack of scientific evidence on the assumption that the increase in carbon dioxide volume in the atmosphere -the most important greenhouse effect gas- can be compensated by the creation of the so-called “carbon sink tree plantations.” In the case of the Ecuadorian Paramos, the carbon uptake by FACE’s pine plantations has proved to be far below the expected figure. Moreover, the plantations can produce the effect of promoting the oxidation of the soil organic matter, which would mean further liberation of carbon to the atmosphere. According to estimates, the release of carbon to the air can be even higher than the carbon uptake of the growing trees, so that plantations would promote the increase of carbon atmospheric concentration, instead of reducing it. This imbalance, coupled with the negative effects of plantations on the economy of the indigenous communities that live at the Páramos, definitively show that plantations are not a solution to global warming, but a part of the problem.

The summary of the thesis and a research paper on the impacts of carbon sink plantations in the Paramo ecosystem in Ecuador are available in Spanish in our web page.