Project Drawdown defines bamboo production as the large-scale cultivation of bamboo production for timber or other biomass uses on degraded land, which sequesters carbon in soils, biomass, and long-lived bamboo products. This solution replaces other uses of degraded lands like grassland, cropland, and forest. However, Project Drawdown has allocated this solution on degraded forestland.
Bamboo is a woody member of the grass family that grows rapidly. Bamboo grows in a wide range of environmental conditions and sequesters carbon at a rate greater than or equal to that of many tree species. Following planting, bamboo matures much faster than trees and sprouts via rhizomes, so it does not require replanting. In fact, harvesting mature culms stimulates the growth of new shoots.
This “friend of the people” has more than 1,500 documented uses, including building materials, paper, furniture, food, fodder, and charcoal. Though there are concerns about the invasive potential of bamboo, it should be noted that species are native to Asia, Latin America, North America, and Africa. Many of the best species are clumping types that do not run and flower extremely rarely, making invasion via both roots and seeds very unlikely.
Bamboo production is a unique subtype of tree plantation worthy of consideration on its own substantial merits.
Total Land Area
Current adoption of bamboo production is estimated at 33.5 million hectares, based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2010). The total area determined suitable for bamboo production is 364 million hectares, and is composed of degraded forest.
Future adoption of bamboo production is projected based on historic regional growth rates from FAO (2010) as well as on projections from Z. Song et al. (2013). Five custom adoption scenarios are developed.
Impacts of increased adoption of bamboo production from 2020 to 2050 were generated based on two growth scenarios, which were assessed in comparison to a Reference Scenario where the solution’s market share was fixed at the current levels.
- Scenario 1: Scenario analysis shows bamboo production adoption on 103.3 million hectares of degraded land.
- Scenario 2: Aggressive adoption yields adoption of tree plantation on degraded land bamboo production on 207.83 million hectares of the allocated degraded land area.
The sequestration rate of bamboo production is 2.03 tons of carbon per hectare per year, based on 12 data points from four sources. This value includes carbon sequestered in long-lived products from harvested bamboo. Because the productive lifespan of a bamboo planting is 75–100 years, emissions from replanting are not modeled.
First cost of bamboo production is US$915.36 per hectare, based on meta-analysis of 10 data points from six sources. Net profit margin is US$717.06 per hectare per year, based on six data points from five sources. Operational cost is US$238.07 per hectare per year based on nine data points. This solution is allocated on the degraded forestland assumed to be not under any production, so no financials are estimated for the conventional practice.
Project Drawdown’s Agro-Ecological Zone model allocates current and projected adoption of solutions to the planet’s forest, grassland, rainfed cropland, and irrigated cropland areas. Adoption of bamboo production was constrained by our higher prioritization of food production and forest restoration. Adoption of bamboo production was the fourth-highest priority in degraded forest.
Total adoption in Scenario 1 is 103.3 million hectares in 2050, representing 28 percent of the total available land. Of this, 69.78 million hectares are adopted from 2020 to 2050. The impact of this scenario is 8.27 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2050. Net cost is US$52.25 billion, and lifetime operational cost is US$566.9 billion. Lifetime saving in net profit is US$1.7 trillion.
Total adoption in Scenario 2 is 207.83 million hectares in 2050, representing 57 percent of the total available land. Of this, 174.31 million hectares are adopted from 2020 to 2050. The impact of this scenario is 21.31 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2050. Net cost is US$161.94 billion, and lifetime operational cost is US$1443.5 billion. Lifetime saving in net profit is US$4.3 trillion.
A study by Z. Song, Liu, Strömberg, Yang, & Zhang (2017) estimates current carbon sequestration in terrestrial bamboo biomes at 0.16 ± 0.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year. In comparison, Project Drawdown’s bamboo model results indicate annual carbon sequestration rates of 0.21–0.57 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year in 2030. While few benchmarks for the global mitigation impact of bamboo production are available, it can be considered a form of afforestation. Combining bamboo production with our other woody crop solutions, tree plantation and perennial tree crops, emissions reduction in 2030 is 1.33–2.45 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year. This is still somewhat low compared with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s estimate of 4.0 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent for 2030 for afforestation, assuming a price of US$100 per ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent (Smith, 2007). This difference is due to Project Drawdown’s land allocation prioritizing agroforestry and other food-producing, high-carbon-impact land uses. In addition, a price on carbon was not modeled.
The rarity of reported soil sequestration rates in the literature is a key limitation. Our results would also be made more accurate should life-cycle analysis of the full bamboo production value chain become available.
Bamboo production is already cultivated on 37 million hectares, and represents an important high-carbon land use. It produces products of critical importance, and can help reduce pressure on intact forests. It has been somewhat neglected as a mitigation strategy, and Project Drawdown hopes to help bring this multipurpose mitigation solution the attention it deserves.
 Current adoption is defined as the amount of functional demand supplied by the solution in the base year of study. This study uses 2018 as the base year due to the availability of global adoption data for all Project Drawdown solutions evaluated.
 Determining the total available land for a solution is a two-part process. The technical potential is based on the suitability of climate, soils, and slopes, and on degraded or nondegraded status. In the second stage, land is allocated using the Project Drawdown Agro-Ecological Zone model, based on priorities for each class of land. The total land allocated for each solution is capped at the solution’s maximum adoption in the Optimum Scenario. Thus, in most cases the total available land is less than the technical potential.
 All monetary values are presented in 2014 US$.