Planting Trees is the Easy Part

Tree planting to restore ecosystemsDone properly tree planting [search] is a hope filled expression of love for nature. But making a hole in the ground and dropping in the seedling is only the beginning. Nearly all planted trees require years of care including watering, weeding and even fencing to become established. Ill-conceived mass tree planting efforts are failing in Nigeria and worldwide [ark] because of failure to plan for this aftercare and other issues like using the wrong species in the wrong place. This is but one misunderstanding regarding tree planting and the environment.
Trees help remove carbon and help restore terrestrial ecosystems, but planted trees are generally not forests. Plantations of only one, often exotic, tree species are crops and not forests. Forests include diverse native tree species with associated understory plants, wildlife and soil microcobes. A natural forest provides ecological processes that are generally absent in tree farms including cycling of water and carbon, while creating soil and habitats.

And sadly, almost certainly tree planting does little to absorb carbon dioxide and thus address climate change. There are too many uncertainties regarding the permanence of carbon sequestration given changing climate. Should trees planted for climate mitigation suffer a massive die-back, tons of carbon would be released at once in a massive positive feedback.
So what to do? I suggest planting native tree species [search] found in your area, in mixtures resembling dominant trees found in local plant communities. Perhaps mix in some species from nearby warmer climates, aiding in their migration in response to global heating. Ideally the tree stock should be sourced from local populations to maximize locally adapted genes. Once a canopy starts forming native understory plants should arrive via wildlife and you can supplement this with herb and shrub plantings as well.
By planting trees that seek to restore native ecosystems [search] you are maximizing an individual tree's contribution to local biodiversity and ecosystems. With these suggestions and with proper initial care, what you plant is more likely to survive and hold its carbon. What a marvelous give to the Earth and your children's children.

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4 Responses

  1. Vinayaraj says:

    One of the best and easiest method towards keeping the environment cleas is planting trees. We have to imbibe our children about the importance of Planting trees and taking them physically into planting activities is an important step. It is very easy and very cost-effective.

  2. Lya Sorano says:

    One of the most beautiful small forests on the edge of a large city is the Big Trees Forest Preserve on the north side of Atlanta (just outside I-285, off Roswell Road). Forest-appreciating visitors to Atlanta are encouraged to go and take a walk!

  3. Crispin Guppy, M.Sc. says:

    Planting trees to replace trees that have been harvested, or in some cases killed through fire or other natural causes, is usually good. But care must be taken not to convert naturally non-forested areas (grasslands, wetlands, etc.) or thinly forested areas to dense forest – in temperate areas the non-forested areas are critical habitat for many rare or endangered species. Planting non-native trees from warmer climates is also questionable – the new introduced tree species may not be suitable habitat for native species in an area, and may also bring with them new pests and diseases. “Plant trees” is a simplistic solution unless accompanied by careful planning, including consideration of unintended side effects and colateral damage.

  4. In our area, the urban setting, I'd say that the Giant Sequoia which is not native, is one of the best long lasting species for landscape settings where enough space exists. Usually at least a 40 x 40 square minimum.
    Douglas fir, a native plant here, does pretty good too, provided soil was not compacted.
    Of those two for example, the Sequoiadendron hold a thicker canopy of foliage by, say, 60 years old.
    Many of our native trees like Bigleaf Maple or Alder are brittle and get ice damage at times, whereas some trees like Black Tupelo are much more sturdy.
    I use a combination of native and non-native for urban, and lean to natives in more rural settings of an acre or more.
    MDV / Oregon

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