Last week the Journal of Applied Ecology had an article titled, “How can ecologists help realize the potential of payments for carbon in tropical forest countries?” It outlined ways that ecologists could make themselves useful in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).  The article was aimed at ecologists, but I’m going to give the authors’ insights a different twist.  In the interest of the welfare of my colleagues, I’d like to point out to the carbon community that ecological expertise is worth some money.

  • Ecologists can develop more accurate forecasts - The authors document a case in Peru where project developers overestimated the carbon credits they could generate by 15%.  Ecologists, by taking into account the regions’ drought history, were able to make a more credible and accurate prediction, allowing the developers to make a better investment decision.  (Based on Ecosystem Marketplace’s data, I roughly estimate this made $100,000 difference)
  • Ecologists can find cheaper monitoring methods - Set up and monitoring can comprise 40% of project costs.  At one Amazonian site, much of forest degradation was the result of poaching palm fruits, which killed female trees.  Ecologists figured out that the level of poaching could me measured by comparing the ratio of male to female trees, easily done with little training during flowering season.  This method is considerably cheaper (and safer), than surveilling for poaching activity.

See?  Project developers, hire an ecologist.  I recommend those trained at UC Davis or Brown University.