Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands (forestation) that have been depleted, usually through deforestation. Reforestation can be used to rectify or 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, but also non-timber forest products. In the beginning of the 21 century more attention is given to the ability of reforestation to mitigate climate change as one of the best methods to do it.
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. 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 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.
At the beginning of the 21 century more attention is given to the ability of reforestation to mitigate climate change as one of the best methods to do it. Even without taking place from agriculture and cities, earth can sustain almost 1 billion hectares of new forests (almost 10 million square kilometres). This will remove 25% of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce the concentration of this gas to levels that existed a century ago. But this requires changes in the current trend in many places like Brazil. Also, it can help, only if it will be combined with cuts in fossil fuel emissions. A temperature rise of 1.5 degrees can reduce the area suitable for forests by 20% by the year 2050, because it will make some tropical areas too hotPlanting 1 trillion trees can seriously help stop climate change. The countries that have the most area for doing so, are: Russia, Canada, Brazil, Australia, United States, China.
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. By reforestation and environmental conservation, Costa Rica doubled its forest cover in 30 Years. It has a long-standing commitment to the environment. The country is now one of the leaders of sustainability, biodiversity, and other protections. Costa Rica has pioneered the development of payments for environmental services. The system of environmental protection provide grants for environmental services. This system is not just advanced for its time but is also unparalleled in the world. It received great international attention. Also the country has established programs to compensate landowners for reforestation. 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. 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. 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
One plan in this region involves planting a nine-mile width of trees on the Southern Border of the Sahara Desert. 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 of 15 km (9 mi) wide and 7,500 km (4,750 mi) long from Dakar to Djibouti.
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.
By reforestation and environmental conservation, Costa Rica doubled its forest cover in 30 Years.
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.
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.
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 since in 1897, about 50% of once bald mountains backed 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 restores 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land to surpass its Bonn Challenge commitment.
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.
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.
Ecosia is a non-profit organisation based in Berlin, Germany that has planted over 75 million trees worldwide as of November 2019.
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.
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.
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
- 10,000 Trees for the Rouge Valley, a reforestation program in Toronto, Canada
- Aerial reforestation
- Agricultural robots
- Forest gardening
- Forest restoration
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- Hoedads Reforestation Cooperative
- Jewish National Fund
- Land rehabilitation
- Natural landscape
- One Earth Climate Model
- Plant A Tree Today Foundation
- Restoration ecology
- Rewilding (conservation biology)
- Richard St. Barbe Baker
- Drone-based reforestation
- The Man Who Planted Trees
- Tree credits
- Tree planting
- Deforestation and climate change
- Wood economy
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