Carbon Plantations, a business backed by Aether Energy Ltd, has been granted permission to plant the UK’s first large scale hybrid Paulownia plantations in East Anglia. Paulownia trees, which are native to East Asia, are estimated to absorb up to 10 times as much CO2 during their 80-year lifetime as new mixed native woodland.
The planned plantations are driven by the carbon sequestration qualities of Paulownia. The tree also serves as a source of hardwood timber, lessening the need to import wood from abroad, although that is likely an additional benefit, rather than a driving factor for the plantation.
Thus, these plantations are examples of nature-based climate solutions that are entirely focused on climate, rather than biodiversity considerations. As nature-based solutions, carbon credits, and climate change gain even greater attention, we should expect more of such initiatives. How might biodiversity considerations be affected by such shifts in plantation focus? Admittedly, the land use that these plantations replace will influence their net impact on the environment.