The missing piece in carbon credit markets – and how we're aiming to fix it

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The way carbon buyers have traditionally approached carbon markets needs to change. The notion that “every carbon project is automatically good for biodiversity” simply isn’t true.

In reality, each carbon project and species has a unique impact and there are a lot of nuances involved.

To claim biodiversity benefits, carbon project developers need to provide the relevant quantitative data that carbon buyers can refer to. Without quantitative data to substantiate claims of biodiversity in the carbon market, how can we ever understand the real impact?

The carbon credit market has been expanding quickly in recent years, offering financial incentives for individuals, organizations, and governments to participate in reducing carbon emissions and combating the climate crisis.
We have a biodiversity crisis and carbon projects offer an opportunity to address some of that, but without clear, accurate measurements on biodiversity, we’ll never know whether it’s working. As the Senior Lead of Natural Capital Development for NCX, Dr. Sophie Gilbert works to expand ecosystem service credits that go beyond carbon credits — and she knows the carbon market needs to do a better job of incorporating biodiversity.
In her article, Why Measuring Biodiversity Co-Benefits in Carbon Credits Matters, she paints a transparent picture of the need for biodiversity measurement in carbon credit issuance, what’s at stake if biodiversity isn’t included, and how NCX is doing its part to develop biodiversity in the carbon market.

Where is biodiversity in carbon projects?

Nature-based carbon projects may tout biodiversity, and biodiversity may play a part in those projects, but existing quantitative data isn't available to back up the claims because only a few rigorous quantitative studies have been conducted. Dr. Gilbert is quick to point out that the lack of quantitative data represents an issue for biodiversity within carbon projects as well as for the effectiveness of the carbon market as a whole.
The inability to provide quantitative data on biodiversity in carbon projects leaves carbon buyers in the dark about how effective carbon projects are at delivering benefits to any particular species and it leaves them unable to support projects benefiting biodiversity they may have preferences for. The transparency over biodiversity data through quantitative measurements (both good and bad) will help the carbon market and our planet.

Why is biodiversity important and what does it mean for carbon markets?

Ecosystems are enormously complex and interconnected. Without a wide range of animals, plants and microorganisms, ecosystems grow unstable and may collapse.
Yet, under the current voluntary carbon market, almost no carbon projects deliver credits with the quantified biodiversity impacts reported.
For carbon markets to incorporate biodiversity, carbon developers would need to hire biodiversity experts, acquire data, and generally invest in these metrics as a component of their credits. Without the appetite from developers to self-fund these endeavors, and until buyers are willing to pay a premium for credits with biodiversity quantification, it will simply be a checkbox. This “check-box” mentality may seem harmless, but it actually leads to negative long-term effects. For example, when carbon projects are trying to maximize carbon sequestration but ignoring biodiversity, it can lead to negative outcomes like planting non-native species in ecosystems and planting the same species of plants through monocultures. Ecosystems that lack biodiversity are at risk of being overwhelmed by diseases, fires, and other disturbances, which could harm their ability to store carbon in the long term.
The carbon market needs to do more due diligence to prove the impact on biodiversity from carbon credits. Dr. Gilbert says we live in a golden age for measuring and modeling biodiversity. She says, “Rapid progress is happening in field-based data collection tools, remote sensing of habitat attributes, and computing power and modeling approaches. This means we can move toward quantitative models of biodiversity additionality for carbon credits.”
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What we’re doing to develop the biodiverse carbon market

At NCX, we are evaluating how our forest carbon program affects biodiversity. Currently, we are developing multi-species models that assess the habitat quality of bird communities across the Southern United States. We can improve our forest carbon programs and learn how forest carbon programs affect biodiversity through these models.
By mapping and addressing how one species creates its habitats in forests, we can better understand the interconnectedness of nature-based carbon capture and the species that facilitate these carbon sinks. In taking this action, we are also making sure that our carbon sinks are a part of healthy ecosystems.
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While we are developing a habitat quality model for birds, we know that birds aren’t the only creature to make up the forest. These models will help us develop expertise in modeling other indispensable forest species like bats, and terrestrial mammals, among many others. But we need your help to create the multi-species model. If you're interested in contributing to data sharing, method development, certification approaches, or investing in biodiversity, please email

Want to learn more?

We recently hosted our own webinar on Why Biodiversity Matters in the Carbon Credit Market, which you can view here. It explains in-depth the long-term value of biodiversity for landowners, communities, and projects like ours. You’ll also learn about the systems we’re putting in place to track, measure, and reward a more biodiverse carbon credit market.

  • Tabitha Kimani

    56 w

    I agree with NCX, Biodiversity should be at the forefront of carbon credits.

    • Judy Holm

      67 w

      Excellent article 💚💙 thank you for sharing 🙏

      • Evangeline Wanjiru

        67 w

        Not every carbon project is automatically good.

        • Damodar Prabhu Panemangalore

          68 w

          We have space for 250 GT of CO2 to doom the globe 🌎 from disaster 50 GT today so in next 7 years max we will reach 1.5 deg c above pre industrial temperatures, so to consume the CO2 and sequester it as carbon means we need biodiversity as Dr Gilberth has said.

          • Allan Waita

            68 w

            I really support it because carbon contains some harmful particles which are responsible for global warming hence should be used in small quantities and eventually abandoned

            • Ford Brodeur

              68 w

              It's great to read that NCX is developing multi-species models that assess the habitat quality of bird communities across the Southern United States! I recently read in a Pachama We Don't Have Time article that nearly 60% of all North American birds call Louisiana their home at some point.


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