Forests are among the largest carbon sinks.
Carbon, the basic building block of life, is stored in rocks and sediments located in the ocean, atmosphere, fossil fuel reserves, and living organisms. In the atmosphere, carbon exists mainly as carbon dioxide (CO₂) – a greenhouse gas. As plants photosynthesize, they absorb CO₂ from the atmosphere and store it as carbon. On a global scale, forests store an incredible amount – at least 800 petagrams – of carbon in plant biomass and soils, making them a significant carbon sink. However, human activities, e.g., the burning of fossil fuels, land-use change such as deforestation, and the expansion of monoculture-based agriculture, contribute to the release of CO₂
into the atmosphere, with a significant effect on the global carbon cycle. As a result, the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere is rising rapidly and is already higher than in the last 800 000 years contributing significantly to global warming.
Figure below: Carbon cycle and terrestrial carbon pools (the figures' values represent carbon density and in tones per hectare).
Globally, forests cover nearly 31% of the Earth, providing habitats for biodiversity, and playing a significant role in sequestering carbon. Forests are dynamic ecosystems that
include plants, animals, microbial communities, and an abiotic environment interacting as a functional unit. Thus, protecting forests is essential for biodiversity and the many ecosystem services associated with forests, including provisioning, supporting, regulating, and cultural services.
Starting with forests, Single.Earth aims to incentivize landowners (individuals, local communities, corporations) to manage their lands to maximize ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration and biodiversity. Rather than prioritizing commercial timber harvesting, Single.Earth proposes a shift in how we view forests and their economic value by valuing intact natural lands. This is especially relevant in light of the recent deforestation trends. Between 2001 and 2021, the world lost 437 million ha of forest equivalent to 11% of global tree cover. In 2021, the world lost a near-record 25.3 million hectares - almost double of 2001 (13.4 Mha). As a result, forest biodiversity decreased by 53% between 1970 and 2014.
Figure below: Global forest expansion and deforestation trends in Mha/year from 1990 to 2020 (adapted from FAO & UNEP, 2020).
Using our global science-based Digital Twin models, we assess gross CO₂ removal capacity by monitoring the land's forest canopy cover in near-real-time. We pay particular attention to the most vulnerable, near-harvesting age stands. Single.Earth has developed a risk assessment tool to be integrated into the digital twin that identifies the forested areas near harvesting age. Upon land data entry, we assess the lands and estimate the likelihood that the forest is approaching harvesting age. We also consider the conservation status, and the topography of the specific plot.
This allows us to identify, onboard and prioritize ecologically valuable forests under high risk of cutting. We then timestamp the assessment results through blockchain technology and mint tradeable MERIT tokens to the landowner in the amount reflecting the ecological value of the land. Soon we will complement our models with the assessment of carbon stocks and biodiversity indices.
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