Carbon &

The Intrinsic Link

"Global warming and biodiversity loss are two of the biggest crises facing our planet. While intrinsically linked, these two pressing issues are largely considered independently."

However, neither of these challenges can be addressed in isolation. They are global, interconnected problems.

Radically Re- Thinking Carbon Markets

“By focusing on optimising carbon sequestration, through single-species monocultures, we have lost sight of our broader environmental responsibilities.
Unlike carbon, biodiversity loss cannot be reduced to a singular metric CO2.”

The World Economic Forum has identified biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the fastest deteriorating global risks over the next decade. Yet, amidst this backdrop, the nature-based carbon market is unfortunately dominated by exotic monoculture plantations, with the single most traded species, pine.
While monoculture crops are the cornerstones of our food and wood production systems they inherently limit the spectrum of ecosystem services provided. Crucial functions like nutrient cycling, water cycle regulation, pollination and pollinators are just a few vital functions that thrive in diverse ecosystems.
We need to think beyond carbon sequestration. By incorporating the principles of strategic restoration, we can address the dual challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Not All Forests
Are Equal

Carbon forestry is a significant - and growing - market. Last year, in New Zealand a total 540,000 hectares of land was recorded as part of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Until now, New Zealand's carbon markets have over-emphasised pine at the cost of our true potential. Alarm
bells signal when you consider that in New Zealand, around 90% of plantations host a single, non-native species- Pinus radiata. These non-native plantations help to reduce atmospheric emissions, but they have minimal broader environmental benefits.

Instead, native biodiverse forests are the pillar of global ecosystems. They support the environment (eg. birds & vertebrate species) and the economy - with local goods and services estimated at around US $33 trillion a year globally. Native and biodiverse forests are more resilient against natural hazards, like forest fires, pests and disease, and are better at supporting the earth’s natural waste & water cycles. Without them, there are serious implications that span multiple planetary boundaries.

Playing the Long Game:
Indefinite Sequestration vs
Limited Sequestration

“Native, biodiverse forests address the dual crisis of climate change and global biodiversity collapse.”

In the long game of carbon sequestration, biodiverse native forests win out over pine or other mono-crop plantations. A forest planted in Northland, Aotearoa, New Zealand for strategic restoration will, over nearly 30 years, become more effective at absorbing carbon than a pine plantation. The growth of a more diverse understory creates a forest that is more resilient, more biodiverse, and more able to effectively sequester carbon in the long term. It’s in these extended time frames that native species come into their own, with many Aotearoa, New Zealand trees living for well over 200 years, and some for over 1,000.

Natural Capital: Why is there a negative cost to planting a better way?

Pine Profit vs Biodiverse
Loss After 15 Years (NZD)

The Cost

Pine plantations are quick and fairly straightforward to establish. The whole forest could be planted within two years at around NZD $2,000 per hectare. In contrast, planting a native, broadleaf forest covering the same area would likely take at least five years, and cost at least $10,000 per hectare – five times as much.

This is due to the cost of the plants – pines cost NZD $0.60 per plant whereas native species average $4 per plant – alongside the cost of ongoing management, specifically invasive species management. Native species need more attention as they grow, which adds to the cost and complexity of the project.

The Natural Return

Assuming you register an annual return on the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, your cash flow after five years looks very different depending on what you choose to plant. 

After 15 years, rotational pine plantations have made a profit –almost NZD $10 million. Permanent pine plantations profit NZD $25 million. In comparison, the native broadleaf forest is at a cumulative loss of at least NZD $12 million. This does not account for lost opportunity costs. One is a recognised business with the additional benefits associated with this,
such as access to bank loans; the other is not.

5x The Cost

Pine Plantation Cost | $2k per hectare

Native Biodiverse Cost | $10k per hectare

3.5x Less Profit

Pine Plantation Profit | $25 million profit

Native Biodiverse Loss | $12 million loss

Biodiversity Positive.
Carbon Negative.

We change the conversation on carbon, to focus on the untapped, game-changing potential of biodiversity restoration. This map shows TAHI's wetland and planted
forest CO2.

TAHI Carbon Capture:
The Complete Picture

At TAHI, we consider the whole landscape - the forest, the soil, the mangroves & the wetlands. Our carbon capture methodology pairs global best–practice standards, with the latest benchmarking for the emerging science of wetland and soil carbon capture.

As of 2024, we estimate that the total carbon storage at TAHI is 241,950t CO2. The Old-Growth forest at TAHI sequests the most carbon –these trees store up to 2.5x the equivalent storage of a pine plantation. By 2100 our modelling shows that our total carbon storage will be 775,300t CO2.

Converging Biodiversity and Carbon Goals

Science has revealed promising financial avenues that appreciate the importance of biodiversity. Currently, mono-crop plantations like eucalyptus, palm oil and the most traded species pine, offer the greatest initial financial incentive within the mainstream carbon market. However, there is a growing awareness of high-quality credits that have broader environmental benefits beyond reducing atmospheric emissions. 

Investing in native species has significantly less long-term risk when integrating climate change into asset risk. Climate risk is no longer an over-the-horizon event, it is happening now.

When incentivised and implemented correctly, strategic restoration can create biodiverse forests, with enhanced tree growth and ecosystem stability.

Since they adapt better to changing environmental conditions and are less vulnerable to diseases, insect attacks, and the increasing risks of fires and extreme weather events, they represent the best option for tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The right tree, even in isolation, can play a pivotal role in bringing biodiversity back to a small area. On a larger scale, the interaction of pioneer species, keystone species and surrounding flora in strategic restoration helps form the basis of a rich tapestry of species.

It is from this biodiverse foundation that a thriving and resilient ecosystem can truly begin to flourish again.

“Biodiverse native forests are a win for both the atmosphere and the environment. Native, biodiverse forests address the dual crisis of climate change and global biodiversity collapse.”


Our Living Eco-Lab

TAHI is our 800-acre ecological reserve, based in Northland, New Zealand. Discover our home and our world-leading approach to biodiversity restoration.