Reforestation in the world
1) Reforestation, an important issue
The destruction of healthy forest systems causes many different problems. Trees provide habitat for animals, purify water sources, control flooding and erosion. They also help replenish the soil with nutrients needed for agriculture. When farmers cannot grow anything, their farms fail and they have no choice but to move to overcrowded cities in search of work.
Reforestation can serve to rectify or improve the quality of human life by absorbing pollution and dust from the air, to rebuild natural habitats and ecosystems, to mitigate global warming. In fact, forests facilitate the biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the harvesting of resources, especially timber, but also non-timber forest products.
2) Reforestation management
A debated issue in managed reforestation is whether or not the next forest will have the same biodiversity as the original forest. If the forest is replaced by a single tree species and the rest of the vegetation is prevented from growing back, the result will be a monoculture forest similar to agricultural crops. However, most reforestation involves planting different selections of seedlings from the region, often multiple species. Another important factor is the natural regeneration of a wide variety of plant and animal species that can occur in a clearcut. In some areas, hundreds of years of fire suppression have resulted in large stands of a single species and age. Clear-cutting or prescribed burning increases biodiversity in these areas by creating a greater variety of tree ages and species.
Reforestation should not only serve to regenerate accidentally destroyed forests. In some countries, such as Finland, a large part of the forests is managed by the wood, pulp and paper products industry. In this case, as with other crops, trees are planted to replace those that have been cut down. In such circumstances, the industry may cut the trees to facilitate reforestation. The timber industry routinely replaces many of the trees it cuts down, employing large numbers of summer workers to plant trees. For example, in 2010, Weyerhaeuser reported planting 50 million seedlings. However, replanting an old forest with a plantation does not replace the old one with the same characteristics in the new one.
In just 20 years, a teak plantation in Costa Rica can produce up to 400 m³ of wood per hectare. As natural teak forests in Asia are becoming increasingly scarce or difficult to obtain, prices for plantation-grown teak are rising every year. Other species, such as mahogany, grow more slowly than teak in tropical America, but are also very valuable.
Reforestation, if several native species are used, can bring other benefits in addition to economic ones. These include soil restoration, rejuvenation of local flora and fauna, and the capture and sequestration of 38 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year.
Forest restoration is not just about planting trees. Forests are made up of a community of species that, over time, incorporate dead organic matter into the soil. A large tree planting program could improve the local climate and reduce the demand for large amounts of fossil fuels for summer cooling.
3) Climate change mitigation
orests play an important role in the global carbon cycle, as trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. By removing this greenhouse gas from the air, forests function as terrestrial carbon sinks, storing large amounts of carbon. Although anthropogenic carbon production is higher, forests remove about three billion tons of anthropogenic carbon each year. This represents about 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Therefore, an increase in global forest cover would tend to mitigate global warming.
There are four main strategies for mitigating carbon emissions through forestry activities: increasing the area of forest land through a process of reforestation; increasing the carbon density of existing forests at stand and landscape scales; expanding the use of forest products that sustainably substitute for fossil fuel emissions; and finally, reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation.
Achieving the first strategy would require enormous and far-reaching efforts. However, there are many organizations around the world that promote tree planting as a means of offsetting carbon emissions for the specific purpose of combating climate change. For example, in China, the Jane Goodall Institute, through its Roots & Shoots division in Shanghai, has launched the Million Tree Project in Kulun Qi, Inner Mongolia, to plant one million trees. The goal is to stop desertification and help combat climate change. China used 24 billion square meters of new forest plantations and natural forests to offset 21% of China's fossil fuel emissions in 2000. In Java (Indonesia), each newlywed couple must give five saplings to the person who preaches their marriage to combat global warming. Each divorcing couple must give 25 seedlings to the divorcing couple. Thanks to reforestation and environmental conservation, Costa Rica has doubled its forest cover in 30 years. It has a long-standing commitment to the environment. The country is now a leader in sustainability, biodiversity and other protections. The environmental protection system provides subsidies for environmental services. This system is not only advanced for its time, but is unparalleled in the world. It has received much international attention. The country has also introduced compensation programs for landowners for reforestation. These payments are financed by international donations and national taxes.
The second strategy concerns the selection of species to be planted. In theory, planting any type of tree to produce more forest cover would absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. On the other hand, a genetically modified tree specimen can grow much faster than any ordinary tree. Some of these trees are already being developed in the timber and biofuel industries. These fast-growing trees would not only be planted for these industries, but can also be planted to help absorb carbon dioxide faster than slow-growing trees.
Large 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 limited impact on climate change mitigation. This is because they replace an area dominated by bright snow that reflects sunlight with dark forest canopies. On the other hand, a positive example would be afforestation projects in tropical regions, which would result in a positive biophysical change such as cloud formation. These clouds would then reflect sunlight, which would have a positive impact on climate change mitigation.
Planting trees in tropical climates with wet seasons has an advantage. In such an environment, trees have a faster growth rate because they can grow throughout the year. Trees in tropical climates have, on average, larger, glossier and more abundant leaves than those in non-tropical climates. A study of the circumference of 70,000 trees in Africa showed that tropical forests absorb more carbon dioxide than previously thought. The research suggests that nearly one-fifth of fossil fuel emissions are absorbed by forests in Africa, the Amazon and Asia. Simon Lewis, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds, who led the study, said, "Trees in tropical forests absorb around 18% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels each year, which significantly dampens the rate of change.
It is also important to address the rate of deforestation. At the moment, there are 13 billion square meters of tropical areas being deforested each year. These regions have the potential to reduce deforestation rates by 50% by 2050, which would go a long way towards stabilizing the global climate.
4) Incentives to reduce pollution
Some incentives for reforestation can be as simple as financial compensation. Streck and Scholz (2006) explain how a group of scientists from several institutions developed a compensated deforestation reduction approach that would reward developing countries for halting any further deforestation. Countries that participate and take the option to reduce their emissions from deforestation over a set period of time would receive financial compensation for the carbon dioxide emissions they avoided. To increase the payments, the host country issues government bonds or negotiates a loan with a financial institution willing to participate in the compensation promised to the other country. The funds received by the country could be invested to help find alternatives to extensive logging. The whole process of reducing emissions would be voluntary, but once the country has agreed to reduce its emissions, it would be obliged to do so. However, if a country is not able to meet its obligations. Its target would be added to its next commitment period. Proponents of these proposals see this as a government-to-government agreement only; private entities would not participate in offsets.
My Wooden Rings is actively involved in reforestation through its partnership with ReforestAction. For each watch sold, a tree is planted.
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