By Shinsaku Takakawa
Reforestation is the planting of trees in a designated area in an effort to substitute carbon dioxide for oxygen in our atmosphere. Reforestation was created in an effort to combat wildlife and natural disasters, but today is mainly used to fight climate change and deforestation. Sites where forests have been lost or destroyed are where most reforestation projects are located. The overall objective of the project can vary from economic interests, ecosystem services or to promote biodiversity.
A current example of reforestation is the Eden Reforestation Projects which creates job opportunities for locals to grow native species in the area. Seeds are taken by nearby forests and planting methods vary from natural regeneration to mangrove propagule planting. They work in countries such as Ethiopia, Madagascar, Haiti, Nepal, Indonesia, Mozambique, Kenya and in Central America.
Reforestation isn’t as simple as planting a tree and leaving it to grow. Reforestation is complicated by ecological and social conditions which are never fully accounted for nor understood. Most planting projects are made from a very mechanical plan of going out to an area and planting saplings every 10-12 feet. This has become the standard for reforestation projects: planting the same species of plant in a factorial fashion. One criticism of reforestation is the encouragement ofmonocultures and depleting natural biodiversity. Monoculture is the cultivation of a single plant species in an area. Ecologists are pushing for a new model of forestry that would replace this method in order to make better use of area.
The current model of forest restoration is now unfit due to increasing wildfires and droughts due to climate change, causing excess spending to combat fires, which should be going towards cultivating new reforestation projects instead of fixing old ones. There is also a safety concern of planting in areas that are in danger of wildfires. Instead of our current ‘pines in lines’ practice, we should implement better spatial arrangement and species diversity in order to ensure survival through fires and droughts. On a larger scale, theThree Zone Method is recommended.
The Three Zone method involves dividing a plot into three categories, which is described in the Tamm Review report:
These areas can be identified and named by using tools such as datasets, models and seed terminal velocity data. After using this method, it is recommended to plant in heterogeneous clusters rather than in homogeneous factory lines as lower densities have been associated with greater water availability, except when between trees that fight for water capture areas and fungal networks amongst those trees. Prescribed burning to imitate natural wildfires can then be used to build resilience to wildfires. Lower and variable densities in reforestation increases the potential for long-term carbon capture because it decreases likelihood of death as trees grown in this method will retain their carbon dioxide in wildfires and droughts.
While reforestation overall may be a short-term solution to excess carbon dioxide emissions, it is not a solution to climate change. According to NASA scientist Sassan Saatchi, “there are many factors to consider and planting trees will never be a substitute for decreasing fossil fuel emissions.” Restoring destroyed forests is a first step in fighting climate change as it will not only clean the air but can give back certain species their habitats, food, and give that area a chance to grow native species and fight invasive ones. In order to really combat excess carbon dioxide emissions we must tackle the problem at its root source. We must demand climate reforms from countries and businesses and make them agree to keep current forests standing and to restore the destroyed biomes with what was naturally there. From there, we should cut direct sources of carbon dioxide and invest in a greener future.
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