SILCHAR, India—In Earth's rapidly changing climate, rubber plantations have an important role to play in mitigating global warming, according to the authors of a new book.
Rubber Plantations and Carbon Management, due out in September from Apple Academic Press, considers the role of rubber plantations in the context of carbon sequestration—the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, preventing its escape.
"The authors provide an in-depth study of the carbon stock and sequestration potentiality of rubber plantations," according to a news release.
Rubber Plantations and Carbon Management addresses ecosystem biomass carbon losses through the clear felling of forests; ecosystem carbon sequestration; and fine root dynamics in carbon balance under a rubber plantation management system.
The book concludes with recommendations about best management practices for Hevea tree plantation expansion in degraded forests, grasslands or fallow lands. "Rubber plantation development by replacing natural forests should not be encouraged, though progressive land use changes … can enhance biomass and soil stock," according to the release.
While there is no specific role rubber plantations play in carbon sequestration, they do offer general benefits in that area, similar to but not as great as natural forests, according to Arun Jyoti Nath, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science at Assam University in Silchar.
Nath co-authored Rubber Plantations and Carbon Management with two colleagues at Assam University, Biplab Brahma and Ashesh Kumar Das.
Traditionally, planters have converted natural forests to community-managed or individually managed Hevea plantations, Nath said.
"Such conversion can be minimized by encouraging Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programs," he wrote in reply to emailed questions.
Cash incentives could persuade farmers to restore degraded land, according to Nath. In Bhutan, he said, a sustainable land management program paid farmers about $49 per acre to convert degraded land into terraced dry land.
Because of low rubber prices, many rubber farmers are switching to other crops, such as agar wood and the areca nut in India, Nath said.
"Land use conversion from forest to any plantation crop accelerates erosion and depletes soil organic carbon," he said. "If existing rubber plantations are converted to other cash crop plantations, this will rather accelerate the carbon depletion process."
The best strategy, according to Nath, is to develop rubber agroforestry.
"Promotion of diversified agroforestry systems in which rubber plays an important role, but is not planted as monocultures, may be more beneficial."
Rubber Plantations and Carbon Management may be preordered for $112.46; after publication, the price is $149.95 per copy.