July 9, 2024   |   By Lottie Laken, Marketing & Communications Lead

How Taking Root’s biodiversity-first approach creates impacts for climate and nature

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July 9, 2024   |   By Lottie Laken, Marketing & Communications Lead

How Taking Root’s biodiversity-first approach creates impacts for climate and nature

Forest biomes are amongst the most biodiverse habitats in the world. In any healthy forest, you’ll find an array of tree species, along with an interconnected web of plants, animals and microorganisms. Together, they form complex ecosystems which help to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, regulate air temperatures, filter water, stabilize the soil, and support local wildlife.

When forests are cut down due to human-caused processes, all of this is lost, and it’s currently happening on a massive scale. Across the globe, once biodiverse habitats have been replaced by degraded land. In turn, this is undermining the planet’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming. In fact, biodiversity loss and climate change are two sides of the same coin, both planetary crises that pose a major threat to humanity.

In photo: A forest restored through the CommuniTree project in Nicaragua. A variety of native tree species have been grown, and natural regeneration has taken place across the forest floor.

How embracing biodiversity improves the integrity of forest carbon removal

Available solutions need to reflect that nature and climate are two sides of the same coin. Carbon removal is a fantastic mechanism to finance local forest restoration efforts. But most of the time biodiversity is spoken about as a co-benefit of carbon removal; something that happens on the side. However, embracing a biodiverse approach to afforestation, reforestation and agroforestry is key to creating more robust carbon removals, most notably because it results in:

  • Greater carbon removal: Research shows that mixed species forests store more carbon than single-species plantations.
  • Increased resilience and longevity: Diverse ecosystems are better equipped to withstand natural weather events such as drought, providing more stable and reliable carbon storage over time.
  • Mitigated risk of carbon loss: Restoring healthy, diverse ecosystems reduces the durability risk of carbon reversals, as the trees are more likely to reach maturity, and a variety of tree species improves resistance to pests and diseases.

How thoughtful project design supports biodiversity outcomes

It therefore follows that restoring forests leads to a dual outcome: improved biodiversity and climate change mitigation. However, it’s not quite so straightforward. Planting and growing trees does not necessarily equate to the return of biological diversity and the sequestration of carbon. Instead, forest restoration efforts must be designed with care if they are to create positive impacts for nature and climate. This means adopting a holistic approach to forest restoration that supports the regeneration of a healthy ecosystem. This requires projects to:

  • Plant native tree species. Native species are adapted to local environmental conditions, meaning they have a greater chance of survival. They also provide habitat and food sources that are specifically suited to local wildlife.
  • Grow a diverse range of native species to create a polyculture forest. This enhances biological diversity and resilience to environmental stresses such as pests and disease.
  • Embrace natural regeneration, which is when forests are left to regenerate with minimal human intervention. This promotes the establishment of indigenous species and vegetation.
  • Take a landscape-level approach. Growing the right trees in the right places depending on regional contexts and conditions creates the opportunity to restore forest fragments and establish nature corridors.
  • Meet the needs of local communities. That way, communities want to have forests on their land for the long-term, ensuring the durability of biodiversity and climate impacts.

Forest restoration efforts that fail to meet these criteria can cause more harm than good. Certain non-native trees, for example, can reduce biodiversity and damage the environment. Monocultures – where just one species is planted – can deplete resources such as water. Both practices can lead to so-called ‘green deserts’; forests that, despite their greenery, lack the biodiversity and ecological functions ordinarily associated with forest biomes.

During monitoring, local field technicians use Taking Root’s mobile app to record the different tree species found on parcels restored through CommuniTree.

Case study: How Taking Root’s CommuniTree Carbon Program enhances biodiversity

At Taking Root, we take care to ensure that the forests we restore in partnership with smallholder farmers work for nature. This commitment is institutionalized in one of our core organizational values: ‘We do it for nature’. In practice, this involves:

  1. Planting native tree species: All the trees planted in CommuniTree are native to Nicaragua and have been selected to meet local farmer objectives. The main tree species planted through the project include Caesalpinia velutina, Swietenia humilis, Bombacopsis quinata, Albizia saman, and Gliricidia sepium.
  2. Diversity of tree species: CommuniTree’s planting designs combine a mix of between three to five native tree species planted at the outset. Landowners then encourage natural regeneration, so their restored land evolves over time into a forest featuring a dynamic mix of species.
  3. Natural regeneration: The project enables natural regeneration to take place to create even greater diversity. To date, 132 different tree species have been recorded across CommuniTree, as verified via Taking Root’s technology platform.
  4. Take a landscape level approach: The project is now working with over 4,000 farmers to restore more than 6,700 individual parcels of land, many of which connect to one another to restore and connect habitats which have previously been lost.
  5. Meet the needs of local communities: Our forest designs are always created in consultation with local communities to ensure they complement their needs.

Thanks to the project design, the forests grown through CommuniTree serve as a proxy for improved biodiversity. This is tracked and verified via our technology platform, which is used by local technicians during monitoring to record the different tree species found on farmers’ parcels. A third-party audit performed during 2023 provided further verification as to the project’s impacts on biodiversity, stating that CommuniTree is “successfully maintaining or enhancing biodiversity by the increasing of forest cover through the planting of native or naturalized tree species.” Farmers also report seeing wildlife return to their land, with sloths, owls and skunks being amongst the animals spotted in forests restored through CommuniTree.

Our ambition to enhance biodiversity through forest restoration requires a lot more thought, care and planning than simply planting trees with the aim of establishing tree cover and removing carbon. But at Taking Root, we know it’s fundamental if we are to bring dormant land back to life. We do it for nature, after all.

Find out more about CommuniTree and sign up to our monthly newsletter for project updates.

Lottie shares and amplifies the impact stories from Taking Root’s forest carbon projects. Prior to joining Taking Root, Lottie worked as a freelance copywriter building powerful messaging for brands in a variety of industries. Before that, she was a content writer for a large legal services provider in the UK. Lottie holds a degree in English Literature from Cardiff University.

Lottie shares and amplifies the impact stories from Taking Root’s forest carbon projects. Prior to joining Taking Root, Lottie worked as a freelance copywriter building powerful messaging for brands in a variety of industries. Before that, she was a content writer for a large legal services provider in the UK. Lottie holds a degree in English Literature from Cardiff University.