Principal Investigator

At a Glance

As society invests in land-based climate solutions, understanding the impacts of these actions on biodiversity becomes ever more critical. Research in the Levine group is using meta-analytical approaches to quantify these impacts, helping ensure that the portfolio of land-based climate mitigation is implemented in a way that maximizes biodiversity.


Research Highlight

Land-based climate solutions are actions aimed at increasing carbon storage or reducing greenhouse gas emissions through harnessing the natural processes occurring in vegetation and soils. They range from reforestation to bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and are essential to meeting the net zero targets in the Paris Agreement. Yet the effects of these solutions on local biodiversity are poorly understood. Quantifying these impacts is essential to deploying and managing a portfolio of land-based climate solutions that maximizes biodiversity, or at the very least minimizes harm.

A reforestation project near Illingen, Germany (Photo by Simon Mannweiler / Wikimedia
Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0)

To investigate the impacts of various land-based climate solutions, the Levine group is conducting a meta-analysis of the literature quantifying the local biodiversity changes associated with afforestation, reforestation, forest stand management for carbon storage, bioenergy cropping for carbon capture, and agricultural soil carbon enrichment. For each of these land-based climate mitigation actions, the meta-analysis synthesizes the results of studies that have quantitatively compared species diversity in locations with a given land-based climate solution relative to how that land would otherwise be used.

Initial analyses of the resulting database, whose size lies in the upper 95th percentile of ecological meta-analyses, shows that when averaging across all land-based climate solutions, such intervention does not systematically increase or decrease biodiversity. Instead, preliminary results show that the type of land-based carbon solution moderates the strength and direction of biodiversity change. At the harmful end, afforestation reduces species richness (relative to those areas without afforestation) by about by about a quarter to a fifth, as does the replacement of food crops with bioenergy crops. By contrast, forest stand management for carbon and agricultural soil carbon enrichment lead to a roughly 10% increase in species richness relative to unmanaged forest and conventional agriculture, respectively. Importantly, across studies within each land-based solution, the biodiversity effect ranged from net loss to net gain, highlighting the potentially modulating effects of where and how these land-based climate solutions are implemented. Quantifying these effects is the next step of the meta-analysis. Overall, the project aims to identify actionable practices for managing carbon while minimizing harmful effects on biodiversity, information critical for the optimal management of land for nature conservation, food, and carbon storage.