Karen D. Holl is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who specializes in restoration ecology. Professor of Forest Restoration at the Universidade de So Paulo, Pedro Brancalion This article first appeared in The Conversation.
Arbor Day was observed in the United States on the last Friday in April for 149 years. To delay climate change, corporate owners, politicians, YouTubers, and actors are now urging to plant millions, billions, or even trillions of trees.
We recognize that trees store fuel, provide shelter for animals and plants, avoid deforestation, and provide shade in cities as ecologists who research woodland regeneration. However, planting plants is not a magic bullet for addressing complicated environmental and social issues, as we have detailed elsewhere. And, in order for trees to have advantages, they must be adequately planted, which is not always the case.
Depending on how projects are designed and managed and when they are carried out, planting trees may have both positive and negative consequences.
Planting trees isn’t a cure-all.
While trees are one aspect of the solution, it is impractical for humankind to plant its way out of climate change, as some activists have proposed. According to scientific forecasts, preventing the worst effects of climate change would necessitate swift and dramatic actions by states, industries, and people all over the world to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, planting trees in the incorrect location will result in unintended consequences. Planting trees in natural grasslands like North American prairies or African savannas, for example, can damage these habitats.
Planting nonnative, fast-growing trees in arid areas can also deplete water sources. Furthermore, several top-down tree-planting schemes run by foreign organizations or national governments evict farmers and force them to clear woods in other areas.
From Sri Lanka to Turkey to Canada, large-scale tree-planting campaigns have failed. The tree species were not well adapted to the local soil and climate conditions in certain areas. The plants were not watered or fertilized in other regions. Locals have, in some cases, illegally cut trees that had been planted on their land. When trees die or are cut down, any gas they have absorbed is released back into the environment, negating the advantages of growing them in the first place.
Concentrate on planting trees.
We believe it is beyond time to shift the focus from tree-planting to tree-growing. The majority of tree-planting activities concentrate on digging a pit and planting a seedling, but the job does not end there. Furthermore, tree-planting diverts attention away from natural forest regeneration.
Trees must mature for a decade or longer to reap the rewards of tree planting. Regrettably, research shows that reforested regions often revert to their original state within a decade or two. Rather than relying on the number of seedlings planted, we suggest that tree-planting campaigns set goals for the area of forest reclaimed after 10, 20, or 50 years.
It’s also possible that actively planting trees isn’t needed. Most of the eastern United States, for example, was logged in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, where nature has been allowed to run its course over the last century, vast tracts of woodland have regrown without the need for humans to plant trees.
Aiding the success of tree-planting projects
As part of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and ambitious projects like the Bonn Challenge and the World Economic Forum 1t.org movement to preserve, rebuild, and raise 1 trillion trees, tree-growing is projected to gain unparalleled financial, political, and social support in the coming years. It would be a colossal waste to squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Here are several essential tips that we and others have suggested to help tree-planting projects achieve better results.
Established trees should be preserved. According to Global Tree Watch, an online website that tracks forest loss around the world, the Earth will lose a region of rainforest the size of New Mexico by 2020. Preventing the clearance of natural trees is much more successful than attempting to reassemble them. Established woods also have advantages today, rather than decades later after the trees had matured.
They provide an alternative income for people who conserve trees on their property rather than harvest or grow crops to protect natural forests. It’s also essential to improve the enforcement of protected areas and encourage non-forest-clearing supply chains for wood and agricultural goods.
Participate in tree-planting efforts for local neighbourhoods. International organizations and national governments fund many tree-planting programmes. Still, their priorities vary significantly from those of the local people planting the trees on their land. According to research after study, local growers and populations must be involved in the tree-growing process from planning to track.
A fisherman, as well as officials from a multinational non-governmental organization and a restoration firm. On a cattle ranch in the Brazilian Amazon, talk about when to grow native plants.
Begin by carefully preparing your strategy. Given the local site requirements, which organisms are most likely to thrive? Which species has the most excellent chance of achieving the project’s objectives? And who would look after the trees once they’ve been planted?
It’s critical to plant in areas where trees have already thrived, as well as to determine whether potential climatic conditions would be conducive to tree growth. Planting in more minor fertile agricultural areas decreases the chance of land being reclaimed or developed trees being burned down to substitute for degraded agricultural land.
- Make long-term plans. To live and flourish, most tree seedlings need attention. This may entail multi-year contributions to water, fertilize, weed, and protect them from burning or burning, as well as ongoing monitoring to see if the initiative is achieving its goals.
People who advocate tree-planting projects should inquire about where the funds are going: the organization’s management or the landowners who are actually planting the trees. Who is keeping track of the initiative, and for how long will they do so?
Growing trees will aid in the resolution of some of the world’s most urgent issues. It’s important to note, though, that planting seedlings is just the first step.