Carbon and Biodiversity: potential research project

The costs and success of revegetation and the potential for achieving multiple outcomes

Investment in revegetation is critical to prevent further loss and decline of biodiversity, reverse environmental damage, and to sequester and store carbon dioxide. Over the past decades we have developed and refined decision support tools to prioritise NRM investments, but such tools are only as useful as the data on which they rely.

We already know that revegetation is characteristically time and resource‐intensive, and often has a low likelihood of success due to both ecological and societal factors. There however currently exists very little national‐level data on either costs or failure rates, although specific programs have been analysed in detail (e.g. NHT investments in rainforest revegetation). This project will explore how the costs and likelihood of success of revegetation varies with environmental conditions, vegetation type, current land use, land use history, and the (interacting) influence of ground preparation and planting design on a national scale. This project will also investigate how the profitability of revegetation varies in response to the type of land restored (particularly in the context of foregone opportunities) and on the species planted. Profitability is also influenced by the failure rate of plantings. The possibility that desired outcomes will not be realized is seldom dealt with in planning for NRM investments largely due to a lack of data, although accounting for the possibility of failure will likely influence the sites that are prioritised for revegetation, when revegetation should occur, and help predict what might ultimately be achieved in the long term.

The CSIRO database for environmental and mallee plantings will form the base dataset for answering these questions, complemented with data from organisational and field surveys. This project will also explore how the relationships are expected to be influenced by climate change. Although the potential benefits from an integrated approach to sequestering carbon and achieving biodiverse plantings are clear, the trade‐offs are not. This is partially because we do not have a consistent metric for measuring biodiversity benefits. This project will seek to evaluate the spatial and temporal cobenefits of revegetation. While there is a single unifying metric for carbon (i.e. tonnes of CO2e), such a metric presently does not exist for biodiversity. This project will advance thinking on the design of a biodiversity metric that will align with emerging national environmental accounting methodology. The biodiversity metric will account for projected site conditions of revegetated lands, and the broader landscape context of the plantings. This will enable the predicted trade‐offs between biodiversity and carbon, in the context of the broader national economy, to be evaluated.

This project is approved as a CSIRO INRM top up scholarship project

Dr Kerrie Wilson, School of Biological Sciences, the University of Queensland

Email:; Tel: +61 7 336 52829

Dr John Dwyer, Ecosystems Sciences, CSIRO

Email:; Tel: 7 3214 2365