Ambitious public commitments to expand the area of forest plantations represent a continuation of decades of aggressive government support for forest plantations as a means of carbon sequestration throughout the world. Most of the world’s plantation forests were established with a mix of public incentives including subsidies, tax benefits and preferential access to credit. Although passive regeneration of natural forests may be an inexpensive and technically simple approach to reforestation, government reforestation incentives have often favored the expansion of commercial plantations to generate economic benefits. However, plantations may not perform as well as natural forests in terms of ecosystem services.
As the world seeks to rapidly expand the area of planted and restored forests, clear assessments of forest subsidies are necessary to design policies that achieve desired carbon and biodiversity gains. We assessed the carbon and biodiversity impacts of state-sponsored afforestation by considering one of the world’s longest operating afforestation subsidies, Chile’s Decree Law 701 (DL 701). We quantified the land use, carbon, and biodiversity impacts of DL 701 to guide future national, regional and global afforestation and reforestation policies.