Afforestation is not just about planting trees

The United Nations devotes the period 2021-30 to restoring ecosystems. As part of this, he has launched large-scale reforestation programs around the world. At a climate change conference organized by the organization in Egypt in mid-November, the European Union and 26 countries allocated $16 billion to help forests. Mainly because the carbon storage capacity of trees contributes greatly to slowing climate change.

Between 2000 and 2020, the number of forest areas increased by 1.3 million square kilometers, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), a non-profit research institute that deals with the world’s resources, and it’s larger than Peru. . This is mainly due to China and India, where large-scale tree planting projects have been undertaken.

However, this is not a true forest, as plantations have been created from one type of tree, which is less beneficial to wildlife.

We can see them mostly as long-term carbon sinks, not as forests – writes A

Unfortunately, most afforestation projects focus on the number of seedlings planted, and pay less attention to how many of these seedlings are left, how diverse the forest created in this way is, or how much carbon they can sequester. “We still know relatively little about where it works or doesn’t work and why,” he said. Laura Duncanson, A researcher at the University of Maryland is studying the ability of forests to sequester carbon.

lately Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society He has published a thematic article in which recommendations for afforestation are presented in the form of 20 articles – all of which are either research or reviews. He is a co-author of one of these studies Lindsey Boys A forest ecologist at the UK’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology, he and colleagues have studied replanted forests in 176 regions in South and Southeast Asia. They assessed how many seedlings were left and what differences existed between soil and environmental factors, as well as the types of trees planted. In some places, barely every fifth of the seedlings survived, and on average only 44 percent of the trees survived more than 5 years.

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However, they made an interesting discovery:

For those seedlings that were planted near the old trees, the survival rate was 64 percent,

Perhaps because these parts are less degraded. Other measures have also helped youngsters survive, such as building game fences or improving the soil, but these are additional costs.

The choice of tree species is also important: by planting a few pioneer tree species, you can help so that the more demanding ones will automatically appear later. Duncanson noted that this solution is halfway between natural reforestation and intensive tree planting programmes.

Stephen Elliott And the Pemonrat Tiansawat, A study conducted by plant ecologists at Chiang Mai University concluded this

First of all, it’s worth planting native tree species that tolerate bare, bare soil surface well, grow quickly, suppress weeds, and attract animals that help spread the trees’ seeds.

These are the pioneer tree species, such as the rainforest shrub called bleeding heart in Australia (Homalanthus novoguineensis). Its roots loosen the soil, and its fallen leaves increase its nutritional content, which helps the formation of other species. Its fleshy green fruits attract animals who help disperse its seeds.

Choosing the right location is also important. Louis Koenig And the Katarina Jakovac, For the past 25 years, ecologists from Wageningen University and the Research Institute have been studying reforestation in arid areas left over from closed tin mines in Brazil. It was difficult for the trees to establish themselves on the slag heaps left over from the mining, on which the layers of soil did not fit well and, moreover, were contaminated with toxic substances. However, the authors write, seedlings have a better chance of emerging in the mine pits themselves or near patches of remaining forest.

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One possible cost-cutting—but effective—solution to afforestation is to plant trees in smaller groups in a given area, creating “renewable islands.”

Then they slowly expand and clump together to form a complete forest. supports its effectiveness Andy Kulikowski And the Karen Hall from the University of California (Santa Cruz), who conducted experiments in 13 regions of Costa Rica. They’ve demonstrated that what they call “applied nucleation” is just as good—if not better—for creating a diverse forest than planting the entire area with a single tree species. Trees grown from homegrown seed have more space and access to more light Robin Chaddon According to a forest ecologist at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Furthermore, since 1997, Chazdon has been observing abandoned pastures in Costa Rica where no trees have ever been planted. However, today a dense and healthy natural forest has grown there, without any human influence.

However, reforestation affects the local population – and vice versa, so it is very important to consider this when planning.

Afforestation reduces the area available for cultivation, but local residents can be compensated for this. With the new forest, they can get timber, it is possible to hunt, and it can also provide other sources of income (such as tourism, forest by-products, etc.). “We have to make sure that afforestation is good for the local community and they want it too,” Benin said.

conservation scientists from the University of York, Robin Loveridge And the Andrew Marshall In Tanzania, they studied the impact of afforestation projects on the well-being of the local population. They compared the satisfaction of people who sold sustainably certified wood with those who did not have a sustainable program. They found it

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The better the forest is managed, the happier the people who manage it.

“It’s not just about managing the forest well from an ecological point of view, but also about making it work socially and economically,” he said. Susan Cook Button Arboretum researcher at the non-profit Nature Conservancy.

Marshall also stresses that there are countless things to watch out for during such projects. This includes, for example, the role of lianas and tendrils – which can hinder afforestation by suppressing seedlings, but can also help by protecting them from large storms – to what counts as success and how projects should be managed further. The answer always depends on local characteristics. “It could be billions of dollars,” said Bill Lawrence, a forest ecologist at James Cook University.

“But there is no simple solution that can be applied everywhere.”

Simon Lewis According to a University College London scientist, these reforestation efforts are very exciting, but the quality of the new forests is cause for concern. The biggest risk is that old forests will continue to be cut down, and even if new forests are planted somewhere, those plantations will be biologically worthless and have less carbon storage capacity than old forests. Thus, although there is no specific deforestation, losses can still be expected.

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