Optimizing carbon storage and biodiversity co-benefits in reforested riparian zones.
Climate change and biodiversity loss are two global challenges that can be addressed simultaneously through reforestation of previously cleared land. However, carbon markets can encourage reforestations that focus on maximizing carbon storage, potentially at the expense of biodiversity conservation. To identify opportunities to optimize reforestation design and management to meet both goals, we examined the forest stand features associated with carbon stocks in biomass and soil, as well as bird abundance and diversity, in remnant and restored riparian forest stands in central California, U.S.A. Within three decades of reforestation, both planted and naturally regenerating riparian forest stands provided significantly greater carbon storage and avian biodiversity benefits compared to baseline conditions. They were also similar to a remnant riparian forest stand. We identified a synergy between carbon storage and biodiversity benefits in their positive associations with understorey cover, but we also identified a trade-off in their relationships to forest stand density. Biomass carbon stocks were strongly positively related to stand density, while bird density and diversity suffered at the highest stand densities. The variability in understorey cover across forest stands indicates an opportunity for further enhancement of carbon and biodiversity benefits in areas where understorey cover is low, while the variability in stand density suggests an opportunity to re-examine reforestation goals and consider thinning to achieve those goals. Synthesis and applications. We identified synergies and trade-offs between carbon storage and biodiversity in their relationships to forest stand features, indicating opportunities to optimize reforestation design and management to achieve multiple goals. Our approach can be adapted to other reforestation efforts intended to simultaneously address the global challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.