Carbon Offsetting with Bamboo: Helping create a greener world

This is a topic I have been interested in lately. I always felt, just from a logical standpoint, that Bamboo was an obvious boon to the environment. It is a fast grower, locks a lot of energy in its rhizome system, has a lot of leaves, and is evergreen. All of these things point to Bamboo being an excellent plant to offset carbon. I’ve just never had the time to do the research to backup these assumptions.  With a few random Google searches, however, I came across some great data on the INBAR site I downloaded the publication entitled “Carbon Offsetting with Bamboo” Here is the brief intro for the publication:

“Bamboo’s biological characteristics – fast growth and high renewability –make it an excellent tool for combating climate change. This publication highlights recent achievements in the development and application of bamboo-specific carbon off-setting methodologies. It also outlines bamboo’s role in and future opportunities for climate change mitigation.” (INBAR accessed January 8th 2013)

The download is free and is filled with statistical information, charts, graphs, and some great pictures of Bamboo. The data supports the assumption that Bamboo is better for the environment than an equivalent stand of trees. Here is just a snippet of the research (it was accompanied by a nice chart)

“INBAR’s modeling shows that a managed Moso1 bamboo forest accumulates about 300 tonnes of carbon per hectare after 60 years. Bamboos also produce the most biomass when managed - by cultivation and selective, regular harvesting of mature culms. If harvested culms are turned into durable products, a managed bamboo forest sequesters more carbon than fast growing tree species, such as Chinese Fir.” (INBAR accessed January 8th 2013)

For those that don’t have the time to read the publication I wanted to pull out one final piece. This was a summary of the benefits of planting Bamboo. This comes straight from the publication

“Bamboo and Climate Change Adaptation

Bamboos are a versatile and useful resource to deal with the effects of climate change. INBAR demonstrated that growing and utilizing bamboos can represent an effective tool in climate change adaptation measures8. Bamboos can be integrated into a wide range of local climate change adaptation strategies. Common examples for bamboos function in climate change adaptation include the following:

Reducing soil erosion: Erosion can destroy ecosystems and livelihoods. Bamboos’ extensive roots and rhizomes bind the soil, and as they can grow on poor soils, bamboos are most effective in areas prone to runoff such as steep slopes, river banks or degraded lands. Bamboos are evergreen plants and the thick canopy and soil cover provided by dead leaves reduces direct and splash erosion and enhances infiltration.

Windbreaks and shelterbelts: Bamboo culms bend in high winds, but usually do not break; therefore, they are often used as windbreaks to protect cash crops, particularly in coastal areas where high winds are frequent.

Decreasing sensitivity: Bamboos grow very fast - productive stands can be established within a few years and individual culms can be harvested after 3-6 years, depending upon species. This rapid establishment reduces exposure to outside risks such as fire or extreme weather events, and increases flexibility to adapt management and harvesting practices in the face of climatic change.

Helping to rehabilitate degraded lands: Bamboos are very productive on fertile soil, but most bamboos can also grow on marginal lands, such as degraded land and steep slopes, leaving better land for more demanding crops. Bamboos are tolerant of a range of soil conditions, such as low pH values, so can grow on lands which would otherwise be unsuitable for productive ecosystems. Additionally, Bamboos can be used to (re-) establish additional functioning and productive ecosystems to reduce pressure on lands to meet food and biomass demands.

Regular provision of renewable energy and sustainable biomass: Deforestation for household energy is a major driver of climate change in many developing countries. Bamboos can help reduce deforestation by replacing trees for firewood and charcoal, providing a more renewable source of energy. Bamboo based firewood and charcoal are being recognized as sustainable alternatives to meet the energy demands of rural and urban dwellers.

Reducing deforestation: Using bamboos instead of trees can reduce pressure on other woody forest resources and help avoid deforestation. In this way bamboos can contribute simultaneously to adaptation and mitigation of climate change.” (INBAR publication 2012)