Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation. Reforestation can be used to improve the quality of human life by soaking up pollution and dust from the air, rebuild natural habitats and ecosystems, mitigate global warming since forests facilitate biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and harvest for resources, particularly timber.
The term reforestation is similar to afforestation, 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. 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 bar, are used to make planting of trees easier and faster.
Reforestation of large areas can be done through the use of measuring rope (for accurate plant spacing) and dibbers, (or wheeled augers for planting the larger trees) for making the hole in which a seedling or plant can be inserted. Indigenous soil inoculants (e.g., Laccaria bicolor) can optionally be used to increase survival rates in hardy environments.
A debatable 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 feedlots 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, the forests are managed by the wood products and pulp and paper industry. In such an arrangement, like other crops, trees are replanted wherever they are cut. 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.
In just 20 years, a teak plantation in Costa Rica can produce up to about 400 m 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 grow higher every year. Other species such as mahogany grow slower than teak in Tropical America but are also extremely valuable. Faster growers include pine, eucalyptus, and Gmelina.
Reforestation, if several native 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 diversity of species and they build dead organic matter into soils over time. A major tree-planting program in a place like this would 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 Even as more anthropogenic carbon is produced, forests remove around three billion tons of anthropogenic carbon every year. This amounts to about 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Therefore, an increase in the overall forest cover around the world would tend to mitigate global warming.
There are four major strategies available to mitigate carbon emissions through forestry activities: increase the amount of forested land through a reforestation process; increase the carbon density of existing forests at a stand and landscape scale; expand the use of forest products that will sustainably replace fossil-fuel emissions; and reduce carbon emissions that are caused from deforestation and degradation.:1456
Achieving the first strategy would require enormous and wide-ranging efforts. However, there are many organizations around the world that encourage tree-planting as a way to offset carbon emissions for the express purpose of fighting climate change. 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 to stop desertification and help curb climate change. China has used 24 billion metres squared of new forest plantation and natural forest regrowth to offset 21% of Chinese fossil fuel emissions in 2000:1456. In Java, Indonesia each newlywed couple is to give whoever is sermonizing their wedding 5 seedlings to combat global warming. Each couple that wishes to have a divorce has to give 25 seedlings to whoever divorces them.
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. On the other hand, a genetically modified tree specimen might grow much faster than any other regular tree.:93 Some of these trees are already being developed in the lumber and biofuel industries. These fast-growing trees would not only be planted for those industries but they can also be planted to help absorb carbon dioxide faster than slow-growing trees.:93
Extensive forest resources placed anywhere in the world will not always have the same impact. For example, large reforestation programs in boreal or subarctic regions have a limited impact on climate mitigation. This is because it substitutes a bright snow-dominated region that reflects the sunlight with dark forest canopies. A study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, USA, found that trees in temperate latitudes have a net warming effect on the atmosphere. The heat that dark leaves release without absorbing outweighs the carbon they sequester. On the other hand, a positive example would be reforestation projects in tropical regions, which would lead to a positive biophysical change such as the formation of clouds. These clouds would then reflect the sunlight, creating a positive impact on climate mitigation.:1457
There is an advantage to planting trees in tropical climates with wet seasons. In such a setting, trees have a quicker growth rate 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 are soaking up more carbon dioxide pollution than previously realized. The research suggests almost one fifth of fossil fuel emissions are absorbed by forests across Africa, Amazonia and Asia. Simon Lewis, a climate expert at the University of Leeds, who led the study, said: "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."
It is also important to deal with the rate of deforestation. At this point, there are 13 billion metres squared of tropical regions that are deforested every year. There is potential for these regions to reduce rates of deforestation by 50% by 2050, which would be a huge contribution to stabilize the global climate.:1456
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
In Germany, 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. In China, extensive replanting programs have existed since the 1970s. Programs 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. In Canada, overall forest cover is increasing over the last decades.
In Borneo Dr Willie Smits, bought up nearly 2000 ha of deforested degraded land in East Kalimantan that had suffered from mechanical logging, drought and severe fires and was covered in alang-alang grass. In a project called Samboja Lestari an area was reforested.
The Groasis Waterboxx was designed specifically to establish trees in areas undergoing desertification. It collects dew and infrequent rain, and slowly releases it to the plants roots, promoting deeper root growth.
Ma Yongshun (马永顺) (1914-2000), a forestry worker who, during his career, chopped down 36,500 trees for China's development, single-handedly planted more than 35,500 trees since the 1960s. Each spring he would plant trees using his free time before work, after work, during lunch time, and after his retirement. Later, at the age of 78 he recruited the help of his family and thus he was able to fully fulfill his promise to the mountain by planting, in total, more than 50,000 trees. By 1996 he had built a breeding base for trees of high quality. He had inspired many people to help the environment and had taught many people to plant trees (his students’ tree planting efforts have a success rate of 95%).
In India, Abdul Karim created a forest out of nothing over a period of 19 years, using the same method as the main character Bouffier. Also in India, Jadav "Molai" Payeng, planted a forest sprawling 1,360 acres, now named the Molai forest, in Assam, India. Similarly, concerned about global warming, Bhausaheb Thorat planted 45 million seeds after being inspired by the 1953 book The Man Who Planted Trees by French author Jean Giono. For this he started the Dandakaranya Abhiyaan in June 2006 at Sangamner, Maharashtra, India (Sangamner is on Pune-Nasik highway). UNEP has taken notice of this campaign in its A Billion Tree Campaign in which almost 45 million seedlings have been planted. Harmony magazine's Tina Anil Ambani has an article on Bhausaheb Thorat's global warming awareness efforts and his Dandakaranya Abhiyaan in the December 2008 edition.
An organization called Trees for the Future has assisted more than 170,000 families, in 6,800 villages of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, to plant over 35 million trees. Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, founded the Green Belt Movement which planted over 47 million trees to restore the Kenyan environment. 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.
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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
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- Forest restoration
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- Land rehabilitation
- Natural landscape
- Restoration ecology
- Richard St. Barbe Baker
- Tree planting
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- 10,000 Trees for the Rouge Valley, a reforestation program in Toronto, Canada
- Tree credits
- Pottiputki (tool)
- Urban reforestation
- Forest gardening
- The Man Who Planted Trees (French title L'homme qui plantait des arbres), a tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953, and made into an animated film in 1987
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