Carbon Sequestration of Long Rotation Plantations

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Understand how carbon sequestration is improved under the ACCU Scheme’s Plantation Forestry method, when converting from short to long rotation.


As the world continues to face the impacts of climate change, it is essential to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration. One pathway to do this is through improved forest management, such as by converting short-rotation plantations to long-rotation plantations (known as ‘Schedule 2’ within the ACCU Scheme’s Plantation Forestry 2022 method). This article will explore why long-rotation plantations can sequester more carbon than short-rotation plantations and the benefits of this conversion. 


The science of carbon sequestration in forests 

Forests play a crucial role in the carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon is stored in the leaves, branches, stems, roots and debris of trees. The amount of carbon stored in a forest depends on several factors, including the species of trees, the age of the forest, and the management practices used. 


In short-rotation plantations, trees are grown for a relatively short period, usually between 5 and 21 years, before they are harvested and replanted. In contrast, long-rotation plantations are managed over a much longer time frame, with trees grown for up to 60 years (dependent on species and region) before they are harvested.


The benefits of long rotation plantations 

Long-rotation plantations have several benefits over short-rotation plantations.


They allow for the growth of larger and older trees. When a forest is clear-felled, the function of the forest system is stalled and takes time to return to its efficient growth stage. Allowing trees to stand for longer increases their productivity and generates higher quality timber – which may create access to high-value markets.  


The longer rotation period means there is longer retention of carbon. As soon as the forest is clear-felled, the carbon component begins to decay (even in the harvested product). By keeping a forest ‘active,’ the carbon is retained for longer and generates greater volumes.  


Long rotation plantations provide enhanced key habitat features for native fauna.  


How to convert to a long rotation plantation 

In practice, this conversion occurs by transitioning your existing short-rotation plantation to a long-rotation. This can happen either midway through the short-rotation cycle or following the clearing of a short-rotation forest. You must be able to demonstrate to the Clean Energy Regulator that your plantation is currently (or was recently) managed as a short-rotation, and that as a result of implementing the project it will be converted to long-rotation. 


Receiving carbon credits for conversion  

The ACCU Scheme’s Plantation Forestry method allows landowners to receive carbon credits for converting to a long-rotation plantation. Landowners are rewarded for the fact that the long-rotation plantation enables trees to grow to a larger size before harvest, therefore storing additional carbon on the land. Additionally, it also assumes that the wood products that are produced from the long-rotation plantation have a longer carbon lifespan than those produced by short-rotation plantations (i.e. structural timber over pulp).   


Landowners are credited for the difference between the baseline scenario (short-rotation) and project scenario (long-rotation). An indicative profile of crediting between the two ‘scenarios’ is shown below, where the baseline scenario is a 13-year rotation, and the project scenario is a 30-year rotation: 


 Source: Clean Energy Regulator 


This is a snapshot of the ‘conversion to long-rotation’ carbon opportunity. For more information about the Plantation Forestry Method, check out the following resources: 


Ready to find out more?

Explore our range of educational resources in our Carbon Farming Education Hub where we frequently publish educational articles, webinars, and guidebooks. 


When you’re ready to explore the feasibility of undertaking a carbon project on your property, email us at or give us a bell at (08) 6835 1140 to be connected with one of our project facilitators.

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