The Multiple Benefits of Carbon as a Commodity

The emergence of sequestered carbon as a globally traded commodity, with the ability to provide economic returns to land managers, offers a new catalyst for stimulating widespread improvements in forest management practices, such as forest preservation, lengthening fallow periods, and reduced impact forestry. Unlike traditional development models based on deferred and diffused benefit streams, the new carbon market model offers an opportunity to link land management and natural resource conservation directly with specific and immediate market incentives. This market-driven approach will stimulate growth and development of a local social and technical infrastructure—one that is self-sustaining and can be maintained over the long term—with additional, highly valued benefits such as enhanced land tenure and environmental quality. Increasing the prevalence of trees on farms and in forests can also provide a range of environmental services (e.g., conserving biodiversity, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation in rivers and lakes, and increased soil fertility). Moreover, what is often not recognized is that while forested area is declining in developing countries, tree cover on farms is rapidly increasing, as farmers begin to plant trees to produce the products that they formerly accessed from forests. Agricultural land now accounts for over double the area of remaining forested land in Africa, giving justification to the slogan that "the future of trees is on farms."

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