Koala Tree Planting Reducing Net Carbon Emissions

koala eating gum leaves

Koala Clancy Foundation plants trees for koalas – we are not a carbon credit trader or carbon offset provider. However, the koala trees we plant do have a surprisingly large impact on reducing net carbon emissions*.

But how much? That is difficult to determine. Trees capture / store carbon at different rates over their lifetime, different species of trees store different amounts of carbon, different environments and climate zones store different amounts of carbon, and soil, grass, shrubs and even tiny annual plants store carbon.

* note: planting trees does not actually reduce our carbon emissions, it offsets our emissions a bit by storing more carbon here on earth. It is good, and important for biodiversity, but it is not secure – trees don’t live forever, and can be cut down or burnt, which will release that carbon into the atmosphere. Really reducing our emissions in the first place – by stopping the use of fossil fuels – is the real answer.

flowers of a River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis
nectar-rich flowers of a River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis. These flowers feed hundreds of honeyeater birds & insects

Some carbon credit traders use a very broad 15 trees = 1 tonne of carbon stored. That figure is applied to forests worldwide, of varying age classes and growth rates. It is, and has to be, very conservative.

Healthy, mature eucalyptus forests in south-eastern Australia do much much better than that. Our old bush woodlands deserve to be protected where they stand, and replanted as much as possible, as they are top notch carbon sinks of value to the whole world. (1)

koala in a River Red Gum - Yellow Gum woodland in the You Yangs VIC
Wild koala in a River Red Gum – Yellow Gum woodland in the You Yangs VIC. These mature forests are carbon-rich.

Recently, a carbon emissions assessment company: Mullion Group / FLINTpro software – generously offered to assess our carbon impact as part of their NGO support program. The results are fascinating.

Our impact is even larger than we hoped. Those koala-friendly River Red Gum forests we are replanting are already reducing net carbon emissions.

koala resting in a large Gippsland Red Gum Eucalyptus tereticornis
Wild koala resting in a large Gippsland Red Gum Eucalyptus tereticornis on Raymond Island VIC

By 2030, at just 9 years old, one planting will be storing 710 tonnes of carbon. That means for every 8 koala trees we planted, one tonne of carbon will be captured (see info box A below).

Even better, by 2050 the same planting will be storing 1530 tonnes. That’s one tonne of carbon for every 3 koala trees.

Wurdi 2021 – the single planting that was assessed – was 5900 trees over 14 hectares. In total, in the whole 2021 season, we planted 25,100 trees over 47 hectares. We can’t directly extrapolate the figures to include all our plantings, but very roughly, by 2030 our 9 year old koala trees might be storing 2400-3000 tonnes, equivalent to the carbon emissions of 150-190 Australians (see info box B below).

2021 Wurdi tree planting
Some of the 2021 Wurdi tree planting assessed by FLINTpro

If Koala Clancy Foundation: a tiny grassroots organisation in one small area of Victoria can do all that, imagine the combined efforts of Landcare Australia, Greenfleet, Carbon Neutral, Bangalow Koalas, Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation, One Tree Planted, 15 trees, Trillion Trees, Greening Australia, Carbon Positive Australia, ReForest Now and others – together planting millions of trees.

See the full FLINTpro assessment here.

Koala Clancy Foundation is not, and will probably never be a carbon credit trader – our plantings only occur in areas that are best targeted to save koala lives immediately. Koala survival is our aim, and the trees we plant need to provide food and shelter for koalas. It is exciting for us to know that our plantings also store enormous amounts of carbon.

Read about our huge plan to save our entire You Yangs koala population.

seedling River Red Gum planted along the Barwon River, VIC
a seedling River Red Gum planted along the Barwon River, VIC

We also understand that koalas are threatened by climate change in every way (2). Urgent carbon emissions reductions are critical for the long-term survival of all koalas, and so we recommend the excellent work done planting trees for carbon storage by experts like Greenfleet, Carbon Neutral and many others, supported by FLINTpro software.

This is not enough to solve the climate crisis, not even close. We are determined to do more and more each year to capture carbon and save koalas. At the same time, we expect and demand that governments and fossil fuel polluters stop fighting us, and start fixing their mess.

Thanks to Mullion Group FLINTpro (particularly Philipp, Rob & Hayden) for providing this assessment, and Dr Stuart Blanch at WWF for connecting us.


A. How can we measure carbon storage by trees planted?
Really, we can’t. It’s much more complicated than that: local climate, soil type, tree species and canopy cover are all taken into account in the finest detail. The entire ecosystem is storing the carbon, not just the ‘trees’. The delicate Golden Daisy we planted and the tiny butterfly that relies on it contribute to the carbon storage, directly and indirectly. The Striated Pardalote that eats the psyllid bug on the River Red Gum leaf contributes to the carbon too, as the tree wouldn’t grow if there were too many bugs. Koala Clancy Foundation plants a complete ecosystem, as that is what is best for koalas. It is also the way that carbon storage is assessed.
In fact carbon storage is assessed by hectare, not by trees. It is assumed that a natural forest will fill its potential for carbon storage to a known level. It doesn’t matter if only one huge River Red Gum remains of 20 we planted, if that’s what the ecosystem is meant to do. That one River Red Gum is storing as much, or more, than all 20 of the original trees combined.
But for this exercise I have simply added up the carbon stored: above ground, below ground and in dead organic matter; and divided it by the number of trees planted.
By reducing the assessment to numbers of trees per tonne of carbon, I have done FLINTpro’s detailed science a disservice. But it helps me process and understand the science.


B. How can we measure the carbon emissions of Australians? For this, I have used an average. Australians are some of the world’s highest carbon polluters. Australia is responsible for 533 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year (2019 figures) (3). Divided by our population, that means that every Australian is responsible for 21 tonnes of carbon emissions every year (4), which is 4 times the global average. Of course, many of us try to keep our emissions as low as possible – so yours may be lower than this, but sadly others may be much higher.
Note: The global average is about 5 tonnes per person.


belt planting on the Wurdi property July 2021
Part of the belt planting on the Wurdi property July 2021




(1) https://www.wilderness.org.au/news-events/carbon-and-forests, sourced from https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/green-carbon-part-1

(2) Mcalpine, Clive & Lunney, Daniel & Melzer, Alistair & Menkhorst, Peter & Phillips, Stephen & Phalen, David & Ellis, William & Foley, William & Baxter, Greg & de Villiers, Deidré & Kavanagh, Rod & Adams-Hosking, Christine & Todd, Charles & Whisson, Desley & Molsher, Robyn & Walter, Michele & Lawler, Ivan & Close, Robert. (2015). Conserving koalas: A review of the contrasting regional trends, outlooks and policy challenges. Biological Conservation. 192. 226-236. 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.09.020. https://koalagroup.asn.au/wp2016/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/McAlpine-et-al.-2015-Conserving-koalas-A-review-of-the-contrasting-trends-outlooks-and-policy-challenges-Biologic.pdf

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas_emissions_by_Australia

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions_per_capita



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