Sunday, June 5, 2022

How We Get Tree Planting Wrong…



“In the face of impending climate catastrophe, there has been a growing clamor to repopulate the trillions of trees our planet has lost over the centuries,” says the Guardian.But large-scale tree planting is not helping, and in some cases it’s creating more problems for the environment. In the YouTube video below, Josh Toussaint-Strauss discusses how we’ve been getting tree planting wrong, and what we should be doing instead to safeguard precious ecosystems and reduce greenhouse gases.


“The right trees in the right place are a good thing,” says Toussaint-Strauss. Choosing the right location and the right tree for it, is crucial. Toussaint-Strauss provides the example of Israel’s Yatir forestation of a natural desert, now adding to global warming due to increased albedo. The wrong location can deplete groundwater, dry up streams, and kill off peatland (itself a major CO2 sequester).


An ecological approach is required that considers: appropriate type of soil, local climate, other biota and what is being planted (e.g. native vs. non-native). Tree planting long-term success relies on using an ecosystem approach. This does NOT include the use of monoculture, which do not form a natural ecosystem, store less carbon, lack biodiversity, do not contribute ecosystem functionality, and are susceptible to disease. This also does NOT include planting with later harvest in mind. Plant the trees and leave them there, to grow, die, and replenish the ecosystem.


The bottom line is that we must create ecosystems, not just plant trees.


More importantly, we must leave currently intact forest ecosystems alone. Let them flourish and do their job for the planet. We must focus on natural forest regeneration by giving already established forests room to thrive and expand—not cut them down for timber or agriculture. Deforestation removes close to 10 billion trees of intact primary forest ecosystem every year. 


We need to think like ecologists—not engineers or planners or socio-economists and politicians—for the sake of the forests and the trees on this planet.