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Improving sustainable tropical forest management with voluntary carbon markets


Purpose: Due to a rapidly changing climate, voluntary carbon markets are gaining momentum and should be leveraged to improve and expand tropical sustainable forest management plans, limiting carbon emissions and enhancing critical carbon sinks. By sequestering more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem — ~1 Pg C yr−1 — tropical forests provide crucial natural climate solutions and opportunities in the evolving voluntary carbon market. Methods: Here, we argue that some issues with the current sustainable management of tropical forests can be addressed using carbon-focused sustainable forest management (SFM + C) to leverage financial resources for tropical forest carbon storage and sequestration. We suggest an extended harvest cycle in SFM + C and calculate an associated potential increase in aboveground carbon stocks of commercial timber of 1.26 Mg C ha−1 after each cycle in the Brazilian Amazon. Results: The additional carbon storage due to a longer harvest cycle can generate carbon credits worth 152.6 (SD 9.2) US dollars per hectare in 40 years. Considering an average cost of 180 BRL per m3 of commercial timber delivered to the sawmill, an SFM + C plan with a 40-year cycle could generate 28.7% (SD 2.5) more profit than 35-year cycles by combining timber and carbon revenues. Conclusion: A robust carbon price could incentivize the further extension of harvest cycles, providing a monetary return that offsets the opportunity cost intrinsic to harvesting under longer cycles. Finally, we highlight research needs to support tropical SFM + C, which can be part of a global collective effort to limit global warming to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

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