“When one plants a tree, they plant themselves. Every root is an anchor over which one rests with grateful interests and becomes sufficiently calm to feel the joy of living” -John Muir.
Today, planting trees is no longer an activity exclusively done by gardeners, farmers, or any individuals who may have a proclivity for plant life.
As one of the most significant initiatives in saving the planet, tree planting in the Philippines is an activity that has since been a program done by various companies, schools, and even individuals just like you and me.
It does not matter who you are, where you live, or how limited or abundant your resources may be; if you advocate for environmental change, you can plant trees this year—even in your own backyard. Currently, there are sixty thousand tree species in the world that are spread out across various forests. While we view trees as our primary source of oxygen, they also serve as homes to countless fauna and organisms. In essence, they are ecosystems, and around these trees, you can find countless creatures—from the tiniest bacterium to the most majestic avian and land animals.
Indeed, the trees and their landscapes, as well as the floral and fauna around them, have formed complex relationships that we, as humans, are only just starting to understand. However, this becomes even more complex when you consider that around two billion humans all over the world rely on forests alone for work, food, shelter, and water. All that considered, the importance of trees cannot be emphasized enough. In more ways than one, it can be said that they are of paramount importance to our existence.
That said, it should come as no surprise that tree planting has become a prevalent environmental initiative implemented around the globe. Such initiatives are run by businesses, companies, governments, schools, and even ordinary individuals. However, while these environmental programs are ambitious and would undoubtedly benefit the planet, it is imperative to have an established set of best practices. This is so we can maximize our endeavors and get the most out of the resources we put towards restoring forests.
So, if you are thinking of starting a tree-planting initiative or program, think of the list below as your guide—a tree planting 101 pointers, if you may. The set of rules below can significantly improve tree-planting efforts in terms of biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and human livelihoods.
Before we even think about starting an environmental initiative of planting more trees, it is crucial to protect the existing forests that we already have first. At the moment, the world is losing areas of forest that are approximately the size of the United Kingdom each year. As a result, less carbon is sequestered, various forest animals are losing their home, and in many cases, this means more carbon dioxide emissions. Significant carbon sinks are caused by old growth forests, and it may take anywhere from a century or more for them to recover fully.
All that considered, preserving trees should simply start by protecting the ones that we already have. Corporations, governments of all levels, and even individuals should make it a point to actively combat rapid deforestation.
Undoubtedly, reforestation can be a daunting endeavor—so much so that many individuals may be deterred from doing it owing to the massive scope of the end goal. However, if you wish to be successful in your project, it is imperative to engage with local communities and the people who already live and work with the trees themselves. Plenty of research has reported that reforestation projects and endeavors fail simply because of the failure to involve and engage local communities.
People living in the areas where reforestation efforts are implemented benefit the most from tree planting and forest maintenance. This can help them economically through the creation of jobs and is also beneficial to their health. In lieu of seeing them as mere beneficiaries, however, it is important to note that these people are subject experts in the forests themselves and the issues facing them. Indeed, forest restoration endeavors work best if it involves the local community as it has co-benefits for local livelihoods.
Trying to understand the best ways to address the issues forests have in their relationship with humans, animals, and other plants can be quite a challenge. This interconnectivity means that the relationships forests have with other living things are complex. In a nutshell, however, it can be said that by improving the health of the forest itself, you can improve the health of its neighbors and inhabitants as a result.
Practical reforestation efforts should be made to address multiple related goals. These goals should include increasing biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions, and helping economies. Keep in mind that trade-offs can happen, but priority goals should be agreed upon by the stakeholders before the start of the project. More importantly, it should be based on science, the environment, and the needs of communities.
While planting more trees can certainly benefit the environment, not every plot of land is made equal when it comes to reforestation. That said, select areas that are most affected, such as previously forested lands. Additionally, wetlands, grasslands, and peatlands may also contribute to carbon sequestration. However, these are not suitable zones for tree planting projects as doing so can displace biodiversity, causing more harm than good.
With that in mind, target areas that either connect or expand on existing forests. Also, you may wish to restore lost forests which can help improve their overall size and health.
Reforestation works best if you let nature do the work for you. Essentially, natural regeneration is a process in which a forest, or wooded area, regrows after a parcel of land is abandoned. It can also mean when a forest mends itself after degradation. Typically, this is easier, cheaper, and in most cases, more effective.
Keep in mind that there are different levels of natural regeneration, with the easiest among them being passive restoration, where no human intervention is required. Low intervention includes protecting a region from fires and reintroducing native flora and fauna selectively. However, cases that require intermediate or high intervention involve more work. Also, it is worth noting that whether natural regeneration will work would depend on the time since the area was cleared, its land-use since clearance, and its distance from the remaining forest patches.
In some cases, natural regeneration is not possible. As a result, human intervention is required. For cases like this, however, it is imperative to pick the right kinds of trees. Select and introduce only native species, including rare and endangered, whenever possible. From there, bring in a good mix of fauna.
By reintroducing biodiversity to a forest, you are effectively attracting pollinators and restoring habitats for various animals. Consequently, this would mean that these forests can become more resistant to diseases, fires, and extreme weather. Keep this in mind and avoid planting exotic species when possible..
Climate change continues to be a pressing environmental problem that has a significant impact on various ecosystems around the world. As it is, pick resilient plant materials as they are the best tree species for reforestation. Choose seeds and seedlings with a healthy amount of genetic diversity. This can make the overall plant population less susceptible to climate change and pests.
However, note how the region is expected to change in the future. From there, choose tree species that can anticipate and are resilient to climate reality.
Always choose to source locally whenever possible. This means sourcing trees, seeds, and seedlings locally. Also, establish a reliable supply chain for your reforestation endeavor at every step of the process. Have a concrete plan for this stage before even beginning the project.
As said above, work with local communities and train your workers on the best practices for tree planting, seed collecting, storing, and the like. You may also opt to employ local people coming from the area as aside from helping improve the local economy, you can make use of their valuable experience and expertise in the region.
Restoring forests is an expensive endeavor. But, there are a myriad of ways to bring new income into the project and benefit the stakeholders financially. An example of this is to sell sustainably produced forest products. Alternatively, you may wish to set up an ecotourism operation. Indeed, there are plenty of ecological benefits to reforestation, but cultivating and fostering a forest’s health and biodiversity should be paramount as this helps local economies.
Begin your reforestation efforts by first reviewing related scientific literature about the tree species and the region you wish to grow them in. From there, consult with the local communities themselves as they can make the process easier and more effective.
Monitor your work at every stage of the process, and keep an eye out on how the ecosystem is recovering. Change your processes as needed.
It is worth noting that reforestation projects may be a little tricky, considering that there are a myriad of moving parts. However, you can help global reforestation efforts simply by following the rules above and supporting the right kind of reforestation.