By: Lykke E. Andersen*
Within the Bolivian government, there are parts that encourage a massive expansion of the agricultural frontier, and other parts that work to control deforestation in order to reduce the local and global impacts of climate change. These are pretty much opposing policies, so consider the following hypothetical question: How large an area would we have to reforest in order to compensate the carbon emissions caused by the expansion of the agricultural frontier by 2.5 million hectares, if we wanted to reach carbon emission neutrality by 2030.
The answer to this question depends on a lot of details, such as where the agricultural expansion would be located and also when, where and how the reforestation would take place. However, let’s make a rough estimate based on the following assumptions:
- The 2.5 million hectare expansion of the agricultural frontier will be well distributed across the country and it will be at the expense of average Bolivian forest, which according to FAO’s 2010 Forestry Assessment has a carbon content of 78 tC/ha (1). The expansion will take place as soon as possible during 2015 and 2016.
- The reforestation will take place on previously deforested, fallow land, which will be planted with rubber tree seedlings, or some mix of species that accumulates carbon in roughly the same way as rubber trees (see function in Figure 1 below). This reforestation will also take place as soon as possible in 2015 and 2016.