Is Planting Trees the Answer?

Is Planting Trees the Answer?

If you are anything like me, then you probably worry too about the problems we are facing today as a society regarding the environment. There’s plenty of bad news about pollution, climate change, forest fires and toxic oceans that can give almost anyone serious anxiety.

Now, let me tell you the good news: the best solution when it comes to fighting global warming is something we can actively participate in as individuals, and it is as eco-friendly as it sounds. I am talking about planting trees.

Believe it or not, the scientific community is actually considering tree planting a controversial subject. What could be negative about such a green initiative? Well, it all has to do with where and when is the best time to plant a tree.

Trees Slow Down Global Warming

Studies show that planting trees is the number one solution we have at the moment. It is relatively cheap, it can be done by anyone, and it’s extremely efficient at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As we all know, plants use carbon dioxide in their feeding process, called photosynthesis. They process carbon and water and release oxygen instead, besides creating more organic matter (a.k.a. growing.)

In tropical areas damaged by deforestation, the consequences of not having enough trees to sustain the ecosystem are extremely damaging: forest fires, drought, collapsing river banks, migrating fauna, etc. It's imperative we replace the trees where they have been removed by human activity and help the forests regrow. But this must be done following the patterns and characteristics of naturally occurring forests.

A study published in 2019 states that there is currently enough land on Earth to sustain a third of the forest area we would need to erase 100 years of carbon emissions. That is huge news, and governments are taking actions to increase Earth’s forest cover, with China, Russia, and the United States being some of the top contributors to the process.

In addition to planting new trees in the right areas, it’s also vital to protect mature and ancient forests that have already established their carbon-reducing potential. It’s also crucial to stop emitting so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the first place. That's why so many solutions involve sustainable farming, reducing meat consumption (and demand,) closing organic fuel plants, and reducing air traffic. We are talking about a whole shift of civilization, and it doesn’t happen in a few years.

However, taking action right now is not futile, since we are looking at an unprecedented climate change speed. In this context, and also considering the budgets each government calculates for this type of action, we get to some practices that may be cheap but can add to the environmental damage they are trying to solve in the first place. Let’s see what are the possible disadvantages of planting trees without proper research ahead.

Possible Disadvantages of Planting Trees Where They Don’t Belong

When you plant a tree for a loved one or changing the landscape of your garden to bring more shade to your house, you will probably choose a tree or a few trees that will thrive in your climate. Those few trees are not part of a forest and will bring benefits to your area by cleaning the air and providing shade. We do recommend using endemic species when you plant a tree, but other than that, you’re mostly doing nature a service.

The issues arise when we don’t just plant a tree, but vast forests. If these forests are not managed with enough knowledge about their ecosystem and the biome they will expand on, trees can become invasive.

In this context, it’s important to support the work of organizations that take local biomes into account and are advised by environmental scientists aware of these cascading effects of misplaced forests. The environmentalist community is increasingly educated on the matter, and they are lobbying for responsible reforesting towards policymakers.

Why Tree Planting Should Be Included in a Larger Program

Planting trees is a huge project for us as a species, and only time will tell if the future generations will enjoy the clean air we were having on Earth centuries ago. Currently, policies are shifting towards more responsible foresting and replacing all the trees that are harvested for industrial use. These initiatives are saluted,  as long as their effects are thoroughly researched and we still protect other types of terrains, like wetlands or grasslands.

Planting trees should also be encouraged at a micro level, with programs in schools and residential communities that can teach individuals how to plant a tree and how they can take actions to help slow down global warming, like buying timber and wooden products from responsible manufacturers, using alternative materials and reducing their own carbon print.

If you want to contribute to the cooling of the planet, plant a tree in your yard or donate a tree in memory of a loved one, there are many local organizations that can help. Just make sure to choose an endemic species that don’t require a lot of maintenance and that lives long, as these are the most efficient in sequestering carbon.

Plant a Tree

We can easily conclude that planting trees should continue and that we are dealing with plenty of areas damaged by irresponsible foresting. What needs to change in the current approach to reforestation is knowing what species to introduce, how much should we extend forests in certain areas that are typically treeless, and how to make the new forests capable of taking care of themselves, instead of being vulnerable to fires and other disasters.

If you want to help restore the Amazon rainforest, there is a way! At ReplantAmazon, we are dedicated to replanting 1 billion trees in the Amazon by 2022. Find out more about us here and how you can join our initiative.


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Planting a forest