Xishuangbanna has been largely transformed from biodiverse natural forests and mixed-use farms into monoculture rubber plantations in just 20 years. Monoculture rubber plantation expansion in Xishuangbanna has brought several issues, e.g. the loss of lowland seasonal rain forest, reduction of biodiversity, and drinking water shortage. In a previous study, Dr. YI Zhuangfang, a Dai girl who obtained her Ph.D degree from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), has modeled and mapped spatially explicit net present value (NPV) of rubber plantations and carbon sequestration in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province.
Recently, China has launched a domestic forest-carbon market to reduce carbon emissions and to mitigate future climate change. Under that background, Dr. YI Zhuangfang and her colleagues developed three land-use scenarios to evaluate the potential of carbon finance in supporting biodiversity conservation in Xishuangbanna.
Their addressed the following questions: (1) At what price and in what locations can carbon payments meet the current net present value (NPV) of commercially grown rubber in Xishuangbanna? (2) At what elevations will reforestation be affordable and bring about higher biodiversity?
They examined the two questions using three land-use scenarios: (1) an Economic Oriented Scenario (EOS), (2) a Conservation Oriented Scenario (COS) and (3) a Business As Usual Scenario (BAU). Their aim was to assess if carbon finance can be competitive with rubber profitability and to help decision-makers and policy-makers to find low opportunity cost areas in Xishuangbanna that might serve as economically viable areas for natural forest protection and reforestation.
From their spatially explicit maps of rubber net present value and carbon sequestration in the three land-use scenarios, they found that the Economic Oriented Scenario achieved the greatest rubber profit but caused substantial reductions in natural forest area, biodiversity and carbon stocks. Conservation oriented landscape design could help to balance between economic development and conservation. Carbon trading scheme might not be able to save irreplaceable forest biodiversity in China.
The researcher recommended that rubber plantations be limited to be established, productive lowland areas whilst protecting intact high-elevation forest and reforesting low-productivity plantations.