Bamboo’s fast-growing and renewable stands sequester carbon in their biomass – at rates comparable to or superior than many tree species. The many durable products made from bamboo can also be potentially carbon negative because they act as locked-in carbon sinks in themselves and encourage the expansion and improved management of bamboo forests.
Bamboo helps avoid fossil fuel use by offering an alternative, highly renewable source of biomass energy. Studies show that bamboo charcoal has a calorific value similar to that of wood charcoal – with far less pollution.
The plant’s rapid establishment and growth allow frequent harvesting which limits exposure to disaster and allows farmers to flexibly adapt their management and harvesting practices to new growing conditions as they emerge under climate change.
Bamboo is integral to many natural and agricultural ecosystems in and near the tropics. It is useful for restoring degraded lands for several reasons: it thrives on problem soils and steep slopes that are unsuitable for other crops, it is an effective windbreak, and its sturdy rhizomes and roots regulate water flows and prevent erosion.
A recently-documented case in Allahabad, India, tells of the rebuilding of rural livelihoods where 80,000 hectares of degraded land were brought back into productivity using bamboo as a pioneer species.
Bamboo is a versatile and rapidly renewable resource with a wide range of livelihood applications in traditional economies. Its economic role is likely to expand at an accelerating pace – both locally and in international trade – as other forest resources become increasingly strained under climate change, as the imperative to mitigate climate change enforces less dependence on fossil fuels and endangered forest resources, and as research discovers new applications.