Carbon Credits for Riparian Restoration

Scalable funding for wildlife habitat

Scalable Funding for Restoration

The Biophilia Foundation is pursuing the development of a carbon credit mechanism to fund restoration of watersheds and streams in the arid Southwest.

Much of the biodiversity of arid and semi-arid ecosystems depends on waterways, from dry washes to perennial streams. The benefits of watershed and stream restoration, particularly at scale, have been demonstrated by organizations such as Cuenca Los Ojos, Borderlands Restoration Network, and Sageland Collaborative. Despite the numerous benefits of restoration, there is insufficient philanthropic funding available to reverse large-scale degradation. The Biophilia Foundation is therefore seeking a scalable funding source and has identified carbon credits as the greatest opportunity.

This project has multiple components, including convening, registry assessment, and research.

Convening Partners from across the Southwest

Biophilia has convened the American Southwest Carbon Marketplace Workgroup, a group of restoration practitioners, funders, and policy specialists, to bring the concept of riparian carbon credits to fruition. Nine partner organizations are convening at four meetings in 2021-2022 at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis to address the science, practice, finance, governance, and policy aspects of carbon credit development.

Workgroup members include:

        • Gita Bodner, The Nature Conservancy – Arizona
        • Greg Costello, Wildlands Network
        • Jennifer Gooden, Biophilia Foundation
        • Kris Hulvey, Working Lands Conservation
        • Aaron Lien, University of Arizona
        • Todd Lopez, Rio Grande Return
        • Bre Owens, Western Landowners Alliance
        • Richard Pritzlaff, Biophilia Foundation
        • Nicole Rosmarino, Southern Plains Land Trust
        • Rose Smith, Sageland Collaborative

Registry Assessment

Biophilia engaged Carbonomics as a consultant to assess existing carbon credit mechanisms for the potential to fund dryland stream and watershed restoration. The assessment included a review of current methods and protocols offered by carbon registries in the United States, such as Verra and the Gold Standard.

The assessment report identified Verra VM0042 and the Gold Standard’s A/R methodologies as candidates for riparian projects. While either could necessitate an amendment or derivation to be applicable, these were assessed to most closely meet the needs of the projects. Further investigation has also identified potential opportunities with Climate Action Reserve and BCarbon.


While some research exists, many uncertainties remain, and we are working to fill the gaps. The Biophilia Foundation is collecting field data on several restoration projects to better understand how process-based restoration techniques change the amount of carbon stored in vegetation, soils, and sediments.

In addition, the American Southwest Carbon Marketplace Workgroup is looking at opportunities to initiate and study the carbon impacts of process-based restoration.