As the popular saying goes, “trees are the lungs of our planet.” They are a vital part of forest and woodland ecosystems and play a big role in our food-producing systems. Unfortunately, there’s a growing global problem of tree felling and deforestation. Thankfully, tree planting projects are springing up across the globe.
Trees are being removed without sufficient replanting and reforestation to offset the loss. We should all be concerned as trees:
Trees serve as the lynchpins of natural ecosystems. They have beneficial interactions with other trees, with soil biota, wildlife, and humanity. Even though we sometimes just pass them by, trees are living beings like us that care for their offspring and other organisms around them. They also learn and relearn things just as we do.
So, we need to protect trees. In their own way, trees are also working to protect us, especially from climate change. They provide crucial support in reversing and reducing the effects of global emissions causing climate change.
It is important to note that tree planting alone2 cannot offset our mammoth global carbon emissions. But it can help us to mitigate and adapt in the face of our climate emergency. Planting trees is a key part of the pathway to a more resilient, fair, and sustainable future.
There is a range of different ways in which we can use trees to help repair the damage humanity has done, to restore degraded landscapes, and even improve them to better meet the needs of wildlife and humanity.
Tree planting schemes can:
There are many individuals and group tree planting projects around the world. These projects are established for different reasons, e.g deforestation, climate crises, natural water cycle, loss of habitat for animals, and more. However, their common goal is to replace native trees in the places they have been/are being lost. Let's look at some major tree-planting schemes around the world:
The Trillion Trees Initiative is one of the largest reforestation initiatives in place. It is a partnership of governments, businesses, civil society, and ecopreneurs who have come together to create a unifying platform for the reforestation community. It brings together and supports a huge range of organizations that are doing their bit; planting trees and restoring our planet.
Through this platform, all local people interested in tree planting can work with those involved in the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, the Bonn Challenge (see below), the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, and many others who are working towards the same or similar goals.
The German Government and IUCN launched this project. It was later endorsed and extended by the New York Declaration on Forests at the 2014 UN Climate Summit. The Bonn Challenge is another key tree planting initiative that seeks to restore 350 million hectares of forest by 2030.
So far, the pledge count is at 172.35 million hectares. Many countries have made ambitious pledges under the Bonn Challenge, and many have already made substantial progress towards meeting those commitments. Check out the link above to find out more about the commitments made, and the exciting tree planting success stories that have been born of them.
Many countries have achieved great things under the Bonn Challenge and other such initiatives, and Ethiopia's Green Legacy Initiative seems to be a significant addition. Launched last May, this program is an attempt to combat climate change and environmental degradation.
Although we cannot verify the exact number of trees planted (by an alleged 23 million people who took part), it does seem clear that a great many trees were planted. And it is likely that this initiative trumps the previous world record for the number of trees planted in a single day; Uttar Pradesh, India, in 2016, when 50 million trees were planted by more than 800,000 people.
The government of Ethiopia aimed to plant 4 billion trees by the end of last year, and while it is not entirely clear exactly how many trees were planted, it is clear that they are making great strides in reforestation.
The web search site Ecosia, founded in 2009, has planted over 86 million trees. When its 15 million active users search the web, ads generate money and Ecosia uses this income to plant trees. They aim to plant a billion native trees and have a series of strong restoration projects around the world.
Ecosia supports over 20 tree-planting projects in 15 countries, working with local partners who monitor trees in the ground. They focus on planting in biodiversity hotspots, and where people want them.
The Nature Conservancy's Plant a Billion trees campaign is another ambitious plan to help curb climate change and address deforestation. Check out this link for more impressive tree planting projects that are being undertaken with donations from this campaign in Africa, China and throughout the Americas.
The World land Trust has provided the funds to plant well over 2 million trees, and counting. By planting trees with the World Land Trust, many people are helping to restore forests that have been lost to deforestation. The World Land Trust works with a network of in-country conservation partners to protect crucial habitats and to restore areas that have been deforested. Check out, for example, their work in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.
One Tree Planted has planted over 4 million trees in 18 countries across four global regions. They've planted more than 1.8 million trees in North America, 1.2 million in Africa, 465,000 in Asia and 423,000 in South America. In 2020, they plan to plant more than 6 million more. They are now an official reforestation partner of the United States Forest Service (USFS) and also work in partnership with a range of other groups.
World Agroforestry is a center of science and development that disseminates knowledge of agroforestry and its practices. Knowledge spread by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies, and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable at all scales. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, they operate six regional programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
World Agroforestry also conducts research in more than 30 other countries around the developing world. The knowledge of agroforestry informs and enables a wide range of agroforestry schemes around the world which also contribute to increasing tree cover and re-greening degraded land.
This Dutch non-profit organization, Ecosystem Restoration Camps has hundreds of members from over 30 countries around the world. Their big goal is to have one million people come together by 2030 and restore degraded lands in 100 ecosystem restoration camps around the world. Check out their website to see the amazing tree planting going on at the existing camps. You can also learn more about seedling camps springing up around the globe.
The International Tree Foundation is a charitable company that runs tree planting programs in Africa and the UK. They support a range of community-led initiatives that plant and promote trees and forests for the future of our planet and human life. They planted approaching 500,000 trees in 2019.
Of course, there are many more amazing tree planting projects. Many of them focus on a very specific area and have very specific targets – from restoring the Amazon to reforesting a nation, to producing food and building resilience for a specific community. Whether we are talking about millions of trees, or just a single, small plantation, millions of people around the world are making a big difference.
If you want to make a difference where you live, there are plenty of ways to start a local tree-planting project. The first step might be to see whether you can partner with or get involved with one of the major tree planting schemes mentioned above. These organizations are often well placed to offer advice and help you find funding and resources for your project.
Of course, the size, scale, scope, and goals of your particular tree planting project will define the best course of action. The type of tree planting you choose will obviously also depend on the climate, environmental and social factors in your area.
One of the first things to do is determine what kind of tree planting scheme you are interested in. For example, you might be looking at:
Also, consider whether you already have a site or if one will need to be found for your project.
There is plenty of information online to guide you through the process of designing your project, forming a working group, and which will guide you through the process of actually planting trees and meeting your goals.
A number of different organizations and initiatives have already created a series of globally applicable guidelines and principles for reforestation and forest restoration.
Take, for example, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration's five basic rules:
Other applicable guidelines and principles include those from the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, the Society for Ecological Restoration, and the Forest and Climate Working Group.
These guidelines and principles should help you form a solid foundation for your project. But there is plenty more reading you can do. Seek the information out there to help you with your tree planting scheme. Reading up on agroforestry, forest gardening, agroecology, and forest ecosystems, in general, will help, as you will be fully informed about the climate and conditions in your bioregion. The design principles of permaculture may also help you develop a framework for your project.
Planting trees, whether on a large or small scale, can be an important step in forging a sustainable future for our planet and for humanity.
|Ekhuemelo, David. (2016). IMPORTANCE OF FOREST AND TREES IN SUSTAINING WATER SUPPLY AND RAINFALL. NIGERIA JOURNAL OF EDUCATION, HEALTH AND TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH (NJEHETR).|
|Ohio State University. (2019, November 4). Lost trees hugely overrated as environmental threat, study finds: Carbon emissions from deforestation much smaller than previously thought, economists say|
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.