Reforestation (occasionally, Reafforestation) is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands (forestation) that have been depleted, usually through deforestation, but also after clearcutting.
Reforestation can be used to undo and rectify the effects of deforestation and improve the quality of human life by absorbing pollution and dust from the air, rebuilding natural habitats and ecosystems, mitigating global warming via biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and harvesting for resources, particularly timber, but also non-timber forest products. Since the beginning of the 21st century, significant attention has been given to reforestation as a technique for mitigating climate change as one of the best methods to do it. To this end, the international community has agreed on Sustainable Development Goal 15, which promotes implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, stop deforestation, restore degraded forests and increase afforestation and reforestation.
Though net loss of forest area has decreased substantially since 1990, the world is unlikely to achieve the target set forth in the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests to increase forest area by 3 percent by 2030. While deforestation is taking place in some areas, new forests are being established through natural expansion or deliberate efforts in others. As a result, the net loss of forest area is less than the rate of deforestation and it too is decreasing: from 7.8 million hectares per year in the 1990s to 4.7 million hectares per year during 2010–2020. In absolute terms, the global forest area decreased by 178 million hectares between 1990 and 2020, which is an area about the size of Libya.
A debated issue in managed reforestation is whether or not the succeeding forest will have the same biodiversity as the original forest. If the forest is replaced with only one species of tree and all other vegetation is prevented from growing back, a monoculture forest similar to agricultural crops would be the result. However, most reforestation involves the planting of different selections of seedlings taken from the area, often of multiple species. Another important factor is the natural regeneration of a wide variety of plant and animal species that can occur on a clear cut. In some areas the suppression of forest fires for hundreds of years has resulted in large single aged and single species forest stands. The logging of small clear cuts and/or prescribed burning actually increases the biodiversity in these areas by creating a greater variety of tree stand ages and species.
Reforestation need not be only used for recovery of accidentally destroyed forests. In some countries, such as Finland, many of the forests are managed by the wood products and pulp and paper industry. In such an arrangement, like other crops, trees are planted to replace those that have been cut. The Finnish Forest Act from 1996 obliges the forest to be replanted after felling. In such circumstances, the industry can cut the trees in a way to allow easier reforestation. The wood products industry systematically replaces many of the trees it cuts, employing large numbers of summer workers for tree planting work. For example, in 2010, Weyerhaeuser reported planting 50 million seedlings. However replanting an old-growth forest with a plantation is not replacing the old with the same characteristics in the new.
In just 20 years, a teak plantation in Costa Rica can produce up to about 400 m³ of wood per hectare. As the natural teak forests of Asia become more scarce or difficult to obtain, the prices commanded by plantation-grown teak grows higher every year. Other species, such as mahogany, grow more slowly than teak in Tropical America but are also extremely valuable. Faster growers include pine, eucalyptus, and Gmelina.
Reforestation, if several indigenous species are used, can provide other benefits in addition to financial returns, including restoration of the soil, rejuvenation of local flora and fauna, and the capturing and sequestering of 38 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year.
The reestablishment of forests is not just simple tree planting. Forests are made up of a community of species and they build dead organic matter into soils over time. A major tree-planting program could enhance the local climate and reduce the demands of burning large amounts of fossil fuels for cooling in the summer.
For climate change mitigation
Forests are an important part of the global carbon cycle because trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. By removing this greenhouse gas from the air, forests function as terrestrial carbon sinks, meaning they store large amounts of carbon. At any time, forests account for as much as double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.:1456 Forests remove around three billion tons of carbon every year. This amounts to about 30% of anthropogenic all carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, an increase in the overall forest cover around the world would mitigate global warming.
At the beginning of the 21st century, interest in reforestation grew over its potential to mitigate climate change. Even without displacing agriculture and cities, earth can sustain almost one billion hectares of new forests. This would remove 25% of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce its concentration to levels that existed in the early 20th century. A temperature rise of 1.5 degrees would reduce the area suitable for forests by 20% by the year 2050, because some tropical areas will become too hot. The countries that have the most forest-ready land are: Russia, Canada, Brazil, Australia, United States and China.
The four major strategies are:
- Increase the amount of forested land through reforestation
- Increase density of existing forests at a stand and landscape scale
- Expand the use of forest products that sustainably replace fossil-fuel emissions
- Reduce carbon emissions caused by deforestation and degradation:1456
Implementing the first strategy is supported by many organizations around the world. For example, in China, the Jane Goodall Institute, through their Shanghai Roots & Shoots division, launched the Million Tree Project in Kulun Qi, Inner Mongolia to plant one million trees. China used 24 million hectares of new forest to offset 21% of Chinese fossil fuel emissions in 2000.:1456 In Java, Indonesia newlywed couples give whoever is conducting their wedding 5 seedlings. Each divorcing couple gives 25 seedlings to whoever divorces them. Costa Rica doubled its forest cover in 30 years using its system of grants and other payments for environmental services, including compensation for landowners. These payments are funded through international donations and nationwide taxes.
The second strategy has to do with selecting species for tree-planting. In theory, planting any kind of tree to produce more forest cover would absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, a genetically modified variant might grow much faster than unmodified specimens.:93 Some of these cultivars are under development. Such fast-growing trees would be planted for harvest and can absorb carbon dioxide faster than slower-growing trees.:93
Impacts on temperature are affected by the location of the forest. For example, reforestation in boreal or subarctic regions has less impact on climate. This is because it substitutes a high-albedo, snow-dominated region with a lower-albedo forest canopy. By contrast, tropical reforestation projects lead to a positive change such as the formation of clouds. These clouds then reflect the sunlight, lowering temperatures.:1457
Planting trees in tropical climates with wet seasons has another advantage. In such a setting, trees grow more quickly (fixing more carbon) because they can grow year-round. Trees in tropical climates have, on average, larger, brighter, and more abundant leaves than non-tropical climates. A study of the girth of 70,000 trees across Africa has shown that tropical forests fix more carbon dioxide pollution than previously realized. The research suggested almost one fifth of fossil fuel emissions are absorbed by forests across Africa, Amazonia and Asia. Simon Lewis stated, "Tropical forest trees are absorbing about 18% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere each year from burning fossil fuels, substantially buffering the rate of change."
A study finds that almost 300 million people live on tropical forest restoration opportunity land in the Global South, constituting a large share of low-income countries' populations, and argues for prioritized inclusion of "local communities" in forest restoration projects.
Using existing trees and roots
Planting new trees often leads to up to 90% of seedlings failing. However, even in deforested areas, existing root systems often exist. Growth can be accelerated by pruning and coppicing where a few branches of new shoots are cut and often used for charcoal, itself a major driver of deforestation. Since new seeds are not planted, it is cheaper. Additionally, they are much more likely to survive as their root systems already exist and can tap into groundwater during harsher seasons with no rain. While this method has existed for centuries, it is now sometimes referred to as Farmer-managed natural regeneration.
Some incentives for reforestation can be as simple as a financial compensation. Streck and Scholz (2006) explain how a group of scientists from various institutions have developed a compensated reduction of deforestation approach which would reward developing countries that disrupt any further act of deforestation. Countries that participate and take the option to reduce their emissions from deforestation during a committed period of time would receive financial compensation for the carbon dioxide emissions that they avoided.:875 To raise the payments, the host country would issue government bonds or negotiate some kind of loan with a financial institution that would want to take part in the compensation promised to the other country. The funds received by the country could be invested to help find alternatives to the extensive cutdown of forests. This whole process of cutting emissions would be voluntary, but once the country has agreed to lower their emissions they would be obligated to reduce their emissions. However, if a country was not able to meet their obligation, their target would get added to their next commitment period. The authors of these proposals see this as a solely government-to-government agreement; private entities would not participate in the compensation trades.:876
The 2020 World Economic Forum, held in Davos, announced the creation of the Trillion Tree Campaign, which is an initiative aiming to plant 1 trillion trees across the globe. The implementation can have big environmental and societal benefits but needs to be tailored to local conditions.
One plan in this region involves planting a nine-mile width of trees on the Southern Border of the Sahara Desert for stopping its expansion to the south. The Great Green Wall initiative is a pan-African proposal to "green" the continent from west to east in order to battle desertification. It aims at tackling poverty (through employment of workers required for the project) and the degradation of soils in the Sahel-Saharan region, focusing on a strip of land that is 15 km (9 mi) wide and 7,500 km (4,750 mi) long from Dakar to Djibouti. As of May 2020, 21 countries joined the project, many of them are directly affected by the expansion of the Sahara desert. It should create 10 millions green jobs by 2030.
In 2019, Ethiopia begun a massive tree planting campaign "Green Legacy" with a target to plant 4 billion trees in 1 year. In 1 day only, over 350 million trees were planted.
Costa Rica has a long-standing commitment to the environment. The country is now one of the leaders of sustainability, biodiversity, and other protections. It wants to be completely fossil fuel free by 2050. The country has generated all of its electric power from renewable sources for three years as of 2019. It has committed to be carbon-free and plastic-free by 2021.
As of 2019, half of the country's land surface is covered with forests. They absorb a huge amount of carbon dioxide, combating climate change.
In the 1940s, more than 75% of the country was covered in mostly tropical rainforests and other indigenous woodlands. Between the 1940s and 1980s, extensive, uncontrolled logging led to severe deforestation. By 1983, only 26% of the country had forest cover. Realizing the devastation, policymakers took a stand. Through a continued environmental focus they were able to turn things around to the point that today forest cover has increased to 52%, 2 times more than 1983 levels.
An honorable world leader for ecotourism and conservation, Costa Rica has pioneered the development of payments for environmental services. Costa Rica's extensive system of environmental protection has been encouraging conservation and reforestation of the land by providing grants for environmental services. The system is not just advanced for its time but is also unparalleled in the world. It received great international attention.
The country has established programs to compensate landowners for reforestation. These payments are funded through international donations and nationwide taxes. The initiative is helping to protect the forests in the country.
"Robert Blasiak, a research fellow at the University of Tokyo, said: "Taking a closer look at what Costa Rica has accomplished in the past 30 years may be just the impetus needed to spur real change on a global scale."
Natural Resources Canada (The Department of Natural Resources) states that the national forest cover was decreased by 0.34% from 1990 to 2015, and Canada has the lowest deforestation rate in the world. The forest industry is one of the main industries in Canada, which contributes about 7% of Canadian economy, and about 9% of the forests on earth are in Canada. Therefore, Canada has many policies and laws to commit to sustainable forest management. For example, 94% of Canadian forests are public land, and the government obligates planting trees after harvesting to public forests.
In China, extensive replanting programs have existed since the 1970s, which have had overall success. The forest cover has increased from 12% of China's land area to 16%. However, specific programs have had limited success. The "Green Wall of China," an attempt to limit the expansion of the Gobi Desert, is planned to be 2,800 miles (4,500 km) long and to be completed in 2050. China plans to plant 26 billion trees in the next decade; that is, two trees for every Chinese citizen per year. China requires that students older than 11 years old plant one tree a year until their high school graduation.
Between 2013 and 2018, China planted 338,000 square kilometres of forests, at a cost of $82.88 billion. By 2018, 21.7% of China's territory was covered by forests, a figure the government wants to increase to 26% by 2035. The total area of China is 9,596,961 square kilometres (see China), so 412,669 square kilometres more needs to be planted. According to the government's plan, by 2050, 30% of China’s territory should be covered by forests.
In 2017, the Saihanba Afforestation Community won the UN Champions of the Earth Award in the Inspiration and Action category for their successful reforestation efforts, which began upon discovering the survival of a single tree.
From 2016-2021, 3976 square kilometers of forests were planted in the Tibet Autonomous Region, with plans for 20 million trees to be planted before 2023.
The first historically proven successful method of afforestation with coniferous seeds on a large scale was developed in 1368 by the Nuremberg councillor and merchant Peter Stromer (around 1315-1388) in the Nuremberg Reichswald. This forest area thus became the first artificial forest in the world and Stromer the "father of forest culture".
Reforestation is required as part of the federal forest law. 31% of Germany is forested, according to the second forest inventory of 2001–2003. The size of the forest area in Germany increased between the first and the second forest inventory due to forestation of degenerated bogs and agricultural areas.
Jadav Payeng had received national awards for reforestation efforts, known as the "Molai forest". He planted 1400 hectares of forest on the bank of river Brahmaputra alone. There are active reforestation efforts throughout the country. In 2016, India more than 50 million trees were planted in Uttar Pradesh and in 2017, more than 66 million trees were planted in Madhya Pradesh. In addition to this and individual efforts, there are startup companies, such as Afforest, that are being created over the country working on reforestation. Lots of plantation is being carried out in Indian continent but the survivability is very poor and especially for massive plantation, it is nearly about less than 20%. To improve the forest cover and to achieve the national mission of forest cover of 33%, need to improve the way we do plantation. Rather than mass planting, need to work on performance measurement & tracking of trees growth. In account of this, a leading non-profit Ek Kadam Sansthan is working and prepared a module of mass tracking of the plantation. The pilot has been done successfully and hopes to implement nationwide by the end of 2021.
In 2019 the government of Ireland decided to plant 440 million trees by 2040. The decision is part of the government's plan to make Ireland carbon neutral by 2050 with renewable energy, land use change and carbon tax.
Since 1948, large reforestation and afforestation projects were accomplished in Israel. 240 million trees have been planted. The carbon sequestration rate in these forests is similar to the European temperate forests.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery explain that about two-thirds of Japanese land is covered with forests, and it was almost unchanged from 1966 to 2012. Japan needs to reduce 26% of green house gas emission from 2013 by 2030 to accomplish Paris Agreement and is trying to reduce 2% of them by forestry.
Mass environmental and human-body pollution along with relating deforestation, water pollution, smoke damage, and loss of soils caused by mining operations in Ashio, Tochigi became the first environmental social issue in Japan, efforts by Shōzō Tanaka had grown to large campaigns against copper operation. This led to the creation of 'Watarase Yusuichi Pond', to settle the pollution which is a Ramsar site today. Reforestation was conducted as a part of afforestation due to inabilities of self-recovering by the natural land itself due to serious soil pollution and loss of woods consequence in loss of soils for plants to grow, thus needing artificial efforts involving introducing of healthy soils from outside. Starting from around 1897, about 50% of once bald mountains are now back to green.
For thousands of years, Lebanon was covered by forests, one particular species of interest, Cedrus libani was exceptionally valuable and was almost eliminated due to lumbering operations. Virtually every ancient culture that shared the Mediterranean Sea harvested these trees from the Phoenicians who used cedar, pine and juniper to build their famous boats to the Romans, who cut them down for lime-burning kilns, to early in the 20th century when the Ottomans used much of the remaining cedar forests of Lebanon as fuel in steam trains. Despite two millennia of deforestation, forests in Lebanon still cover 13.6% of the country, and other wooded lands represent 11%.
Law No. 558, which was ratified by the Lebanese Parliament on April 19, 1996, aims to protect and expand existing forests, classifying all forests of cedar, fir, high juniper (juniperus excelsa), evergreen cypress (cupressus sempervirens) and other trees, whether diverse or homogeneous, whether state-owned or not as conserved forests.
Since 2011, more than 600,000 trees, including cedars and other native species, have been planted throughout Lebanon as part of the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative, which aims to restore Lebanon's native forests. Projects financed locally and by international charity are performing extensive reforestation of cedar being carried out in the Mediterranean region, particularly in Lebanon and Turkey, where over 50 million young cedars are being planted annually.
The Billion Tree Tsunami was launched in 2014 by planting 1 billion trees, by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Imran Khan, Pakistan, as a response to the challenge of global warming. Pakistan's Billion Tree Tsunami restored 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land to surpass its Bonn Challenge commitment.
In 2020, the Pakistani government launched an initiative to hire 63,600 laborers to plant trees in the northern Punjab region, with indigenous species such as acacia, mulberry and moringa. This initiative was meant to alleviate unemployment caused by lockdowns to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In 2011, the Philippines established the National Greening Program as a priority program to help reduce poverty, promote food security, environmental stability, and biodiversity conservation, as well as enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation in the country. The program paved the way for the planting of almost 1.4 billion seedlings in about 1.66 million hectares nationwide during the 2011-2016 period. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ranked the Philippines fifth among countries reporting the greatest annual forest area gain, which reached 240,000 hectares during the 2010-2015 period.
4000 years ago Anatolia was 60% to 70% forested. Although the flora of Turkey remains more biodiverse than many European countries deforestation occurred during both prehistoric and historic times, including the Roman and Ottoman periods.
Since the first forest code of 1937 the official government definition of 'forest' has varied. According to the current definition 21 million hectares are forested, an increase of about 1 million hectares over the past 30 years, but only about half is 'productive'. However, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization definition of forest about 12 million hectares was forested in 2015, about 15% of the land surface.
The amount of greenhouse gas emissions by Turkey removed by forests is very uncertain.As of 2019 however a new assessment is being made with the help of satellites and new soil measurements and better information should be available by 2020.
According to the World Resources Institute "Atlas of Forest Landscape Restoration Opportunities" 50 million hectares are potential forest land, a similar area to the ancient Anatolian forest mentioned above. This could help limit climate change in Turkey. To help preserve the biodiversity of Turkey more sustainable forestry has been suggested. Improved rangeland management is also needed.
National Forestation Day is on 11 November but, according to the agriculture and forestry trade union although volunteers planted a record number of trees in 2019, most had died by 2020 in part due to lack of rainfall.
It is the stated goal of the US Forest Service to manage forest resources sustainably. This includes reforestation after timber harvest, among other programs.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows that forest occupied about 46% of total U.S. land in 1630 (when European settlers began to arrive in large numbers), but had decreased to 34% by 1910. After 1910, forest area has remained almost constant although U.S. population has increased substantially. In the late 19th century the U.S. Forest Service was established in part to address the concern of natural disasters due to deforestation, and new reforestation programs and federal laws such as The Knutson-Vandenberg Act (1930) were implemented. The U.S. Forest Service states that human-directed reforestation is required to support natural regeneration and the agency engages in ongoing research into effective ways to restore forests.
As for the year 2020, United States of America planted 2.5 billion trees per year. At the beginning of the year 2020, a bill that will increase the number to 3.3 billion, was proposed by the Republican Party, after President Donald Trump joined the Trillion Tree Campaign.
Ecosia is a non-profit organisation based in Berlin, Germany that has planted over 100 million trees worldwide as of July 2020.
Ecologi is an organisation that has its members pay a monthly fee to offset their carbon emissions, primarily through tree planting. As well as this they work to promote sustainability and low carbon alternatives. So far over 2 million trees have been planted through Ecologi.
Shanghai Roots & Shoots, a division of the Jane Goodall Institute, launched The Million Tree Project in Kulun Qi, Inner Mongolia to plant one million trees to stop desertification and alleviate global warming.
Team Trees was a 2019 fundraiser with an initiative to plant 20 million trees. The initiative was started by American YouTubers MrBeast and Mark Rober, and was mostly supported by YouTubers. The Arbor Day Foundation will work with its local partners around the world to plant one tree for each dollar they raise.
Many companies are trying to achieve carbon offsets by Nature-based solutions like reforestation, including mangrove forests and soil restoration. Among them are Microsoft and Eni. Increasing the forest cover of Earth by 25% will offset the human emissions in the latest 20 years. In any case it will be necessary to pull from the atmosphere the CO2 that already have been emitted. However, it can work only if the companies will stop to pump new emissions to the atmosphere and stop deforestation.
A similar concept, afforestation, refers to the process of restoring and recreating areas of woodlands or forests that may have existed long ago but were deforested or otherwise removed at some point in the past or lacked it naturally (e.g., natural grasslands). Sometimes the term "re-afforestation" is used to distinguish between the original forest cover and the later re-growth of forest to an area. Special tools, e.g. tree planting bars, are used to make planting of trees easier and faster.
Another alternative strategy, proforestation, is similar as it can be used to counteract the negative environmental and ecological effects of deforestation through growing an existing forest intact to its full ecological potential.
Reforestation competes with other land uses, such as food production, livestock grazing, and living space, for further economic growth. Reforestation often has the tendency to create large fuel loads, resulting in significantly hotter combustion than fires involving low brush or grasses. Reforestation can divert large amounts of water from other activities. Reforesting sometimes results in extensive canopy creation that prevents growth of diverse vegetation in the shadowed areas and generating soil conditions that hamper other types of vegetation. Trees used in some reforesting efforts (e.g., Eucalyptus globulus) tend to extract large amounts of moisture from the soil, preventing the growth of other plants.
There is also the risk that, through a forest fire or insect outbreak, much of the stored carbon in a reforested area could make its way back to the atmosphere.:1456 Reduced harvesting rates and fire suppression have caused an increase in the forest biomass in the western United States over the past century. This causes an increase of about a factor of four in the frequency of fires due to longer and hotter dry seasons.:1456
The European Commission found that, in terms of environmental services, it is better to avoid deforestation than to allow for deforestion to subsequently reforest, as the former leads to irreversible effects in terms of biodiversity loss and soil degradation.
Furthermore the probability that legacy carbon will be released from soil is higher in younger boreal forest. Global greenhouse gas emissions caused by damage to tropical rainforests may be have been underestimated by a factor of six. Additionally the effects of af- or reforestation will be farther in the future than those of proforestation. It takes much longer − several decades − for the benefits for global warming to manifest to the same carbon sequestration benefits from mature trees in tropical forests and hence from limiting deforestation. Some researchers note that instead of planting entirely new areas, reconnecting forested areas and restoring the edges of forest, to protect their mature core and make them more resilient and longer-lasting, should be prioritized.
- 10,000 Trees for the Rouge Valley, a reforestation program in Toronto, Canada
- Aerial reforestation
- Agricultural robots
- Richard St. Barbe Baker
- Drone-based reforestation
- E-tenders for carbon sink restoration
- Forest gardening
- Forest restoration
- Greenland Arboretum
- Hoedads Reforestation Cooperative
- Jewish National Fund
- Land rehabilitation
- The Man Who Planted Trees
- Natural landscape
- One Earth Climate Model
- Plant A Tree Today Foundation
- Restoration ecology
- Rewilding (conservation biology)
- Tree credits
- Tree planting
- UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
- Wood economy
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