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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

What does agroforestry mean?

Agroforestry defines land use systems in which trees are combined with crops or livestock on one area. In doing so, positive ecological and economic interactions are created.

What are the advantages of agroforestry?

  • Regeneration of soil & ecosystems

  • Improving biodiversity

  • Improving the microclimate

  • Enhancing welfare of farm & wild animals

  • Improvement of productivity

  • No conflict but synergies with food production

  • Broadening the income streams of farmers

  • Providing large volumes of regenerative raw materials for human needs

  • Safely locking away CO2 in healthy ecosystems and durable products

Are the CO2 credits offered officially certified e.g. VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) or Gold Standard?
Currently there are no official standards for European agroforestry systems. Climate impacts from land use change are counted towards national targets under current legislation and cannot be "privatized" as things stand. It is also possible that climate benefits from wood utilization will be counted toward respective sector CO2 reduction targets (e.g., construction sector).
In our opinion, it is crucial that trees are planted now, even if the exact official attribution of climate change mitigation is not yet defined.
It is planned to support the development of appropriate certification schemes for agroforestry in Europe by actively engaging VIVO Carbon in the definition of effective standards.

Is VIVO Carbon externally audited?
External validation of the climate mitigation performance of agroforestry systems in terms of CO2 sequestration in wood increment is an essential part of the VIVO Carbon concept. For now, the additional CO2 sequestration in the root system and through humus build-up is expected to be assessed only qualitatively due to the challenges of accurate quantification.
Decisive for the selection of external validation actors is the assured independence and the available expertise regarding the assessment of agroforestry systems.

Why are the CO2 credits sold ex-ante and not after the CO2 has been sequestered by the trees?
Only by selling the CO2 credits ex-ante, VIVO Carbon can pre-finance the projects and realize them together with the farmers. The benchmark for the number of CO2 certificates sold is the amount of CO2 that is captured by the trees over the contract period with farmers, wich is normally 15-25 years. After that, the agroforestry systems are expected to continue to be operated by the farmers and provide additional climate protection benefits, for which VIVO Carbon will not sell additional certificates.

Which is more important for climate impact, the number of trees or the tree covered area?
The tree covered area, if it is ensured that canopy closure is reached within a few years. After a relatively short phase, in which growth tends to be per plant, the total growth and thus the CO2 sequestration is based on the tree covered area. This means that a very dense planting of tree-strips, with a large number of trees does not usually have a greater effect on the climate.

What potential do agroforestry systems have to help agriculture adapt to climate change?
According to IPCC, agroforestry systems are the most effective concrete measure "to mitigation, adaptation,
combating desertification and land degradation, and enhancing food security" (https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2019/08/4.-SPM_Approved_Microsite_FINAL.pdf, table on page 28)

Why productive systems?
Productive systems can multiply the climate protection effect of agroforestry systems, insofar as the products are utilized in terms of climate protection.

  1. CO2 is captured through photosynthesis in the wood, the roots and through humus build-up

  2. CO2 is permanently stored in the respective wood product after harvesting and processing

  3. Wood as a feedstock and building material replaces raw materials with a poor CO2 balance. Such as cement or concrete, bricks, glass, metal, plastic

  4. The trees can regrow more vigorously again after harvesting due to the space gained. Through several rotations the trees continue to capture new CO2 in the proces and deliver additional environmental services

Which tree species are used by VIVO Carbon?

We mainly use pionier tree species like poplars, as they grow fastest in Europe and maximise the climate benefits. With every ton of wood growth an equivalent of CO2 is captured and stored. One ton of wood dry-matter is storing the carbon amount of more than 1.8 tons CO2.

How quickly and over what period of time is CO2 captured?

Poplar trees can grow up to four meters hight, already in the year of planting. Usually an average of 2-3 meters is achieved in well managed agroforestry systems. Already in the first 8 years, anually an average of 20 tons (20,000kg) CO2 can be captured by the trees per hectare (10,000m²) of tree area. This results in 300 - 400 tons of CO2 captured on on hectare tree-area over 15-20 years. Even after this period, the trees are vital and continue to grow, capturing CO2, but VIVOCarbon is not calculating the climate effect beyond 15-20 years.

What does dry matter mean?

The term dry matter is leveling out the differnt hight of water-content in wood. Usually fresh wood has about 50% dry matter and 50% water. For example if we anticipate a growth of 10 tons dry matter, this means the respective fresh wood weight is 20 tons. In our calculation we always talk about dry matter, as this is the reference to calculate the CO2 captured. One ton of wood dry matter always contains the carbon form 1.8 tons CO2. 

How can 1 ton dry wood store 1.8 tons of CO2?

In reality not the CO2 is stored but only the carbon from the CO2. The O2 (oxygen) is released back into the air.

Dry wood usually contains approx. 50% carbon, 42% oxygen, 5% hydrogen and some other elements. This means that there is more carbon in dry wood, than in the same weight of CO2 (which mainly consits of oxygen).

How are fast growing trees increasing biodiversity?

The main benefits of fast growing pionier trees for biodiversity are the indirect effects. The poplars are rapidly creating an advantagous microclimate and habitat. Highest biodiversity is observed in ecosystems which contain moist/dry and light/shade areas. For example on the edge of a forest. Alley-cropping systems are delivering specifically those conditions. The effect in reality is obvious. During certain periods, already two years old agroforestry system inhabit so many insects, that it might be "uncomfortable" to walk within the tree-areas.

 

What's the logic behind harvesting the trees instead of letting them grow, and store all the CO2?

1. The trees are planted relatively dense (average of 1 tree per 5m²), to maximise CO2-capturing within the next few years. This means, that after appox. 8 years the trees would either need to be thinned or harvested.

2. We are convinced that wood is an ideal universal raw material for many products, which are currently relying on fossil fuels. We think, that specifically the building sector should use more wood to replace CO2-intensive materials like concret, bricks and steel. If wood is used in the building sector, it usually is locking away the carbon form the captured CO2 for decades. This means by harvesting the trees and using the wood at the right place, the climate effect is doubled. Carbon is locked away and additionally, fossil CO2 emissions are prevented. And even better, the poplar trees regrow from the roots and can be harvest a second and a third time after they have reached the required size.

What is so special about poplars?

They are the fastest growing trees in temperate climate and therefore capture most CO2 and have highest climate effect and  productivity.

What are pioneer tree species?

Pioneer tree species are the first trees that are growing under uncomfortable or harsh conditions. They are less demanding in terms of soil-structure, nutrients and decent temperture levels. Usually pioneer tree species prepare the areas e.g. after a land slide, a forest fire or an ice-age for the more demanding higher valued tree species. Poplars in agroforestry may also be a door-opener for re-introduction of fruit and nut trees into more complex agricultural systems at scale.

Are VIVO Carbon's agroforestry systems also monocultures?

No, there are always at least two cultures, trees and traditional agricultural plants, like grain or grasland. Even if only one tree species (always several varieties) is planted, many other plants can be tolerated under the trees, which are prohibitiv in other agricultural cultures. Usually tree areas are only kept free of "weed-competion" only in the year of planting.

 

Are also nut and fruit trees or valuable timber trees planted?

At present VIVO Carbon is focussing on tree species which are having the largest impact on CO2 capturing, like poplars. In certain projects, and if cooperating farmers are open for it, we will include fruit, nut and native tree species. Even if this leads to higher effort and respective costs per ton of captured CO2.

If agroforestry seems to be a "silver bullet", why it not applied already?

Actually, most agricultural systems before indutrialization included agroforestry elements. With increasing size of agricultural machines, most trees have been removed and intensive agriculture mostly focussed on short term financial returns and not on long term productivity from healthy systems. Now, there is increasing awarness regarding the benefits of agroforestry, but it is lacking adoption, as farmers are mostly not knowing how to cultivate trees anymore.

Are agroforestry systems not funded through EU-payments?

Starting in 2023 there is a definition for agroforestry systems in Germany, regarding the agricultural EU-pament schemes. However, the proposed payments are extremely low (200€/ha tree area), and are not taking establishment costs into account. Also adverse requirments are difined, like a minimum distance of tree-lines to the field boundary and to each other of 20m. This means that many agroforestry systems are not recognised by the new agroforestry subsidy definition.

Nonetheless, whenever there are suitable funding scheemes for agroforestry, they will be included in VIVO Carbon's planning process, and ideally increasing the climate and biodiversity impact of your CO2-credits. Either more trees can be planted, or "non-productive" biodiversity elements (e.g. flowering/native trees are added).

Are CO2-credits like “selling of indulgences”?

Yes and no. First priority is to drastically cut fossil CO2 emissions now. There is no viable scenario to continue burning fossil fuels and compensate through CO2 certificates. However, there are several arguments, that if done right, CO2-credits are a reasonable instrument:

  • Individual actors like companies are not in the position to reduce their fossil CO2 emissions to zero, as the dependency on fossil fuels are systemic and needs to be solved at a national or international level. Therefore it is respectable, if individuals are compensating the emissions, which they can not avoid at a reasonable effort. 

  • To maintain a decent comfort of living, we need to imediatly scale-up climate friendly alternative value chains, substituting fossil carbon, as carbon is a critical component in the value chain of most products and services.

  • Our society needs to rapidly develop solutions to achieve negative CO2-emissions. Without negative emissions, starting to kick-in in less than 30 years, there is no chance to avoid climate break-down according to most IPCC scenarios.

How does VIVO Carbon work, in short?

  1. Planning of agroforestry project with farmer.

  2. Selling of CO2-credits to finance planting, fostering of trees & compensation of farmer for providing land.

  3. Contractual agreement with farmer & realization of project with annual reporting towards buyers of respective CO2-credits.

  4. After e.g. 8 years first harvesting and sale of wood for utilization, maximizing climate benefits (focuss on building materials, locking away CO2 for decades, and substituting e.g. concrete).

  5. Regrowth of trees from stumps, enabling next harvesting after another e.g. 8 years.

  6. Investing the net returns from wood sales in new projects with natural CO2-capturing (preserving a part of the returns to compensate the farmer for the new periode of land-provision).

  7. Additional harvesting activities and re-investments of profits.

  8. Handing the respective agroforestry project over to the farmer, after agreed contract term.

Who is behind VIVO Carbon?

The VIVO Carbon initiative was developed by Lignovis GmbH. The team behind has almost 20 years experience and planted more than 25 million trees throughout the EU. Considerable support for the development of the VIVOCarbon concept was provided by the city of Hamburg (Investitions- und Förder-Bank IFB), through an "Update-Deutschland Hamburg", project funding. 

Lignovis is not a share-holder of VIVO Carbon. End of 2023 VIVO Carbon was founded as a "gemeinnützige GmbH", an operational charity company, by six individuals with a diverse background in agroforestry, innovation and social entrepreneurship.

As a registered charity organisation VIVO Carbon will irrevocably ensure, that all potential profits are re-invested to benefit environment- and climate protection, animal welfare, education and development cooperation.

Does VIVO Carbon generate profits by selling climate protection services?

Yes, it is planned to operate agroforestry projects in a profitable way. We strongly believe that only with profitable business-models, the huge potential of agriculture to fight climate collaps can be activated.

However, at current state, we need a financial reward of climate benefits, to get the ball rolling.

Generally, we want to proof to farmers and the world, that with agroforestry it is possible to align "market economy" with planetary regeneration.

As the concept of VIVO Carbon allows to generate income from wood sales, the "charity" setting of VIVO Carbon guarantees, that those profits are re-invested in new projects to benefit the pre-defined purpose of the organization.

Will VIVO Carbon work exclusively with Lignovis for project execution?

No, VIVO Carbon plans to cooperate with different service providers and in mid-term be a platform to finance climate-efficient agroforestry projects in Germany and Europe. However, there are synergies between VIVO Carbon and Lignovis. In the beginning, most projects will be practically implemented (planted and managed) by Lignovis in cooperation with the respective farmers. This creates efficiencies and planning reliability for VIVO Carbon.

As VIVO Carbon grows, Lignovis will be one service provider among others.

How are farmers involved?

VIVO Carbon offers a fair and transparent cooperation model to farmers. It is envisaged to demonstrate the viability of agroforestry systems on commercial scale, and encourage farmers to realize future tree plantings on own account. The specifc land area on which trees are planted by VIVO Carbon remains in the full administrative responsibility of farmers. Also, farmers are always tied-into the success of respective agroforestry projects by a certain share on financial yields from wood sales, depending on partial investment participation and/or provision of land at a discount from the expected financial site productivity.

Why don't farmers install agroforestry systems themselves?

Due to undesirable political framework conditions, agroforestry is normally not considered to be a business-case for individual farmers yet. Also, farmers are hesitant to plant trees, due to uncertainties and lack of tree-related expertise. VIVO Carbon is bridging this gap by realizing the projects in cooperation and offering farmers a fair compensation for the provision of suitable land, and participation on wood returns.

Why are the CO2-credits sold ex-ante and not after the CO2 has been captured by the trees?

Is VIVO Carbon checked externally?

Can agroforestry systems help to stop climate change?

Why productive systems?

What can the poplar wood be used for?

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Contact us

michael.weitz@vivocarbon.de
T: +49 40 180 86 953
M: +49 178 144 77 74

Tietzestraße 29
22587 Hamburg

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