Forest adaptation: One of our most important levers in the fight against climate change

We only have 6 years left to meet the 1.5 degree target. This makes one thing clear: we need as much climate action as possible. The situation is too critical to take the easy way.

This means that in addition to technology-based solutions such as renewable energies or direct air capture, we also need nature-based solutions such as reforestation or forest protection. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), nature-based solutions are indispensable. 

This can also be seen in the current financing of climate protection project developers: Nature-based solutions are financed with over 50% of investments. For good reason: on the one hand, our natural resources are enormous carbon reservoirs. They have the potential to store 10 gigatons of CO2 per year and can thus account for 30% of all climate protection measures by 2030. On the other hand, climate protection and biodiversity go hand in hand: 80% of all terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests. At the same time, 60% of biomass in the EU alone is at risk of climate change - an urgent call for us to act.

Why forest adaptation is one of our greatest levers

Forest projects account for a large proportion of nature-based solutions. A third of the world's total land surface is covered by forests. They store billions of tons of carbon every year - comparatively cheaply. However, our forests are under enormous threat. Depending on the geographical region, forests face different challenges: In South America and Africa, the forest area is decreasing due to deforestation; in other parts of the world, forests are increasingly struggling to withstand the challenges of climate change.

For this reason, there are different types of projects that address the respective local challenges:

  • Reforestation: In reforestation projects, trees are planted to restore clear-cut areas of forest. 
  • Improved Forest Management (IFM): In these projects, more  is stored through improved forest management practices.
  • Forest protection: Forest protection projects prevent forest areas from being destroyed by illegal deforestation.

All of these project types are valuable. However, one of the most important project types is missing from the list - and from the carbon market in general: We are talking about forest adaptation. By turning monocultures into climate-resilient mixed forests, carbon is removed from the atmosphere.

While illegal deforestation only plays a subordinate role in Europe and North America (and thus forest protection projects), there are only a few areas available for reforestation due to the high population density, particularly in Europe. Forest adaptation is an urgently needed project type with enormous potential for carbon sequestration - wherever there are monoculture forests.

Hundreds of millions of hectares of monocultures worldwide - why this is a problem

One issue that existing project types have only addressed marginally is the condition of the forest and the way in which it is managed or planted: often as a monoculture. All over the world, trees are planted as plantations, with one dominant tree species and of the same age and height. Figuratively, these can be thought of as "matchstick forests" - all the trees are planted in rows. The aim is to harvest them again later for timber production. In Germany, too, after the Second World War, spruce trees were usually planted in neat rows in an industrially efficient manner and cut down. In Europe, state regulations now prevent the overuse of forests. Nevertheless, our forests are plagued by new challenges: climate change brings droughts and storms, which will continue to intensify and provide space for pests such as the bark beetle.

Monocultures are particularly at risk because they stand at the same height and thus offer gateways for storms. At the same time, the tree species are not diversified, making the dominant tree species particularly susceptible to droughts and pest infestations. Our task is therefore not only to manage the forest in an economically sensible way, but also to think long-term. The solution to the problem is to turn monocultures into climate-resilient mixed forests. In Germany alone, there are 2.85 million hectares of endangered monoculture forests - forests that need to be made future-proof for climate change. However, the necessary resources are still lacking: financing and funding programs are not sufficient to finance the measures at the necessary speed.

Monoculture forest in Brandenburg, Germany

This is where Pina Earth comes in: by developing forest adaptation projects as a new type of climate protection project. By making a climate contribution to a Pina Earth project, companies can protect the climate regionally through forest adaptation, promote biodiversity and achieve their sustainability goals at the same time.

What makes Pina Earth’s projects special?

  • Effective climate action: The latest studies show that mixed forests can potentially store 70% more CO2 than monocultures (Warner et al., 2023). Forest adaptation stores additional carbon through the growth of new trees and the preservation of old growth. The mixture of different tree species with complementary characteristics increases the overall carbon storage potential. At the same time, mixed forests are more resilient to pest infestations, droughts and storms, which also increases the sink capacity in the long term. 
  • Integration of climate change into the calculation methodology: In the forest growth simulation that Pina Earth has developed to calculate the additional carbon storage potential, the mortality of trees under climate change is taken into account over the project duration of 30 years. By integrating climate mortality as a risk factor, it is possible to prevent the carbon storage potential from being overestimated.
  • Increasing biodiversity: Mixed forests provide a diverse habitat for species-rich fauna and flora. The structural diversity in mixed forests due to the horizontal and vertical heterogeneity of the trees offers ideal conditions for the protection and promotion of biodiversity in the forest.

How does a forest adaptation project look like?

All Pina Earth’s projects are documented in our forest project dashboard. There, you can also find all the information on our latest project in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, Lindorf. The project area currently consists of a monoculture forest with 81% spruce and homogeneous tree heights. This makes the forest very susceptible to climate-related risks such as storms, forest fires and insect infestation.

Within the project duration of 30 years, 318 hectares - an area the size of 445 soccer pitches - of pure spruce stands will be converted into structurally diverse and climate-resilient mixed forests as part of the climate protection project. The new regeneration layer in the project area will mostly be achieved by advance reproduction through seeding of silver fir, and supplemented with douglas fir, lime tree and hornbeam. In addition, tree species naturally occurring on the project area like oak, hornbeam and maple, will be promoted to become part of the new regeneration layer. At the same time, natural regeneration is promoted and wildlife management is carried out to prevent serious forest damage. The measures will increase biodiversity by 67% over the project duration of 30 years.

Pina Earth’s project Lindorf in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, 2023
The future forest state will consist of silver fir (on the right) and spruce (on the left), mixed with birch, beech, maple, lime tree and hornbeam.

Our co-founder and CTO Florian Fincke on a project visit in Nov 2023

Support biodiverse forests in Germany as part of your sustainability strategy

In this article, we have discussed the importance of different types of projects in the fight against climate change. Forest adaptation projects play an essential role as part of a company's sustainability strategy. With increasing risks of climate change for monocultures, Pina Earth is the first project developer to offer carbon removals from certified forest adaptation projects in Germany, making forests biodiverse and future-proof.

In contrast to carbon removals from afforestation projects, which often drive forward the planting and deforestation of monocultures, forest adaptation projects are rare. The availability of these high-quality projects decreases further the more companies neutralize emissions as part of their Net Zero targets.

In order to secure carbon credits from high-quality climate protection projects for their net-zero targets, many companies are already concluding multi-year contracts for high-quality carbon removals. This has the advantage of not only financing much needed measures in the projects, but also being protected against price increases in the future. Would you like to find out more? Arrange a meeting with us to find a suitable project for your sustainability strategy.

Dr. Gesa Biermann

Co-Founder & CEO

Pina Earth

Leos Paul Bloch

Head of Business Development

Pina Earth


About the authors:

Dr. Gesa Biermann is the co-founder & CEO of Pina Earth, a climatetech startup based in Germany and backed by Y Combinator. Pina Earth develops climate projects that transform monoculture forests into biodiverse and climate-resilient ecosystems. Gesa holds a PhD in Sustainability Science from LMU Munich and a Master's in Sustainable Resource Management from TU Munich. Prior to founding Pina Earth, she co-founded 180 Degrees Consulting Munich and was part of the Management Team at the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM) - a joint research and educational institute of LMU and TUM.

Leos Paul Bloch joined Pina Earth as Head of Business Development & Sourcing in 2022. He holds a M.Ss. in Sustainability & Social Innovation from HEC Paris School of Management. For more than 5 years, he has been advising international companies on how to engage in effective climate action. Prior to Pina Earth, Leos worked at one of the largest international climate change consultancies and before that, he drove the energy transition at Siemens.