What is reforestation?
Forests cover around 30% of the planets land and provide home to many animals and people, so it is important to look after the worlds’ forests.
Reforestation is the process of replanting trees in damaged parts of forests/land to help bring it back to life. The aim of reforestation is to restore degraded forests that have been depleted (fewer trees than before) due to deforestation.
Estimations show how with the replantation of 1 trillion new trees, they could store 205 billion metric tonnes of carbon. This is the equivalent of 25% of the current atmospheric carbon pool. The aim to control global warming is to remain under a 1.5ºC global temperature rise. With 1 trillion new trees being planted this would support this goal.
Why it is important we replace the trees we cut down
There are a number of reasons it is important to replace the trees that are cut down especially through deforestation.
- Reducing CO2 in the atmosphere
Reforestation is one of the best ways to improve the quality of the air that all living creatures breathe in. Plants and trees soak up CO2 from the air and they let out O2, this also supports the lowering of surface temperatures and supporting the global temperature rise goal of 1.5ºC.
- Fighting global warming
It is so important to fight against global warming as this has devastating effects, such as melting glaciers. Through trees reducing the CO2 levels in the air and decreasing toxic gases such as methane in the atmosphere, reforestation therefore helps control the the planet’s temperature. This helps to minimise the ever increasing temperatures due to the increased burning and usage of fossil fuels.
- Soil erosion and watersheds
Deforestation leads to soil erosion which leads to flash floods and landslides. Reforestation is important as roots hold on to the soil and absorb water. This also reverses the damages done by soil erosion. It also helps revive watersheds which are important to environmental wellbeing.
- Restoring habitats
Both deforestation and urbanisation (the increase in built-up areas and reduction of rural land) provide a huge threat to forests’ flora and fauna. Many animals are becoming extinct due to human activities which destroy their habitats, through reforestation, it helps preserve wildlife and endangered species before it is too late. A recovering forest restores habitat loss and degradation.
- Checking biodiversity loss.
The earth is loosing its biodiversity (the number of different species in a particular location) as animals are forced to leave their natural habitat, but other factors play a part on the loss of biodiversity. Through reforestation it can support animals in their natural habitat. This can then be checked to see if a reduction in numbers is the effects of other factors such as rapid climate change and global warming.
- Home to people
3oo million people globally live in forests and directly rely on them for medicine, food and their livelihoods. If trees are continued to be cut down at an alarming rate we are pushing those who live in the forests out of their homes; thus reforestation is vital to support people in using the land to survive.
Advantages of reforestation
With the importance of reforestation comes many advantages, which support the continued survival of the planet earth and all living creatures. These are;
- Leading to a balance of O2 and CO2
When trees go through photosynthesis they absorb CO2, thus they help with a gradual depletion of CO2 in the air. During the process of photosynthesis trees release O2 which supports the balance of O2 and CO2.
- Trees prevent soil erosion
Trees’ roots act like nets holding soil in place from deep in the ground, with this soil runoff is prevented which means essential nutrients are retained so the soil stays fertile.
- Maintains the water cycle
Through absorbing moisture through their leaves and roots, trees maintain the water cycle. Trees help slow down the aridity (dryness) of the atmosphere. They also help fresh water lakes from loosing moisturiser and drying up.
Trees release some of the water they absorb as water vapour from their leaves, this is called transpiration. This helps to restore moisture in the atmosphere while helping to maintain the temperature in the local environment.
Forests are a great source for the economy through the timber trade, when controlled and sustained properly through the replanting of trees, it will continue to provide a source of income for over 1.6 billion who rely on forests, all without destroying them.
What is deforestation?
Deforestation simply is the clearing, or cutting down of forests. This is a worldwide problem. Since 1990, up to 90% of the rainforests on West Africa’s coast have been lost. 88% of South Asia’s rainforests have also disappeared. Lastly, over the past 40 years, 40% of Central America’s rainforests have been cleared.
There are two main reasons for deforestation and these are for timber and food production. Other reasons include mining, oil extraction, road building and urban expansion.
1. Timber and fuel production
Logging which is the cutting down of trees to produce timber is roughly responsible for around 14% of deforestation. Trees that provide strong timber known as ‘hardwood’ are often found to grow in tropical rainforests. A large proportion of these trees are cut down to produce timber for building houses and other buildings. Timber is also used in paper production. Additional 5% of deforestation is caused by trees being cut down for fuel.
2. Food production
Food production is the main cause for deforestation, with an ever growing human population there is a need to produce more food. In order to do so there is a need for more agriculture (farming), which leads to deforestation in order to create more fields to house live stock or to grow crops.
48% of deforestation is caused by subsistence farming (farming by local people.) 32% is caused by commercial farming (carried out by businesses and governments.)
How can deforestation be controlled?
Deforestation is not irreversible, controlling the rate at which trees are cut down is vital to support the survival of the planet. There are a number of practices in place to help stop deforestation. Working to end deforestation and forest degradation while helping to restore forests which have been depleted is the best chance to solve a range of global issues such as; the climate emergency, protecting wildlife, and defend the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional local communities.
Some of the ways which support the restoration of forests are explored below;
- Through buying paper and wood products which are certified by the Forest Stewardship council (CFS). This helps to stop illegal logging and leads to a responsible forest management.
- By purchasing sustainable goods, this means avoiding single use packaging, eating sustainable foods and purchasing recycled or responsible wood products.
- Recycle paper and cardboard. If 2000 pounds of paper are recycled and reused this prevents the cutting down of 17 trees.
- Follow paperless practices, do not print documentation out unless it is necessary. Save documents to your computer or smart phone’s drive.
- Try to eat less meat and do not buy meat products from places where forests are cleared. The best way to do this is to buy meat products which are sourced locally.
- Avoid products which contain palm oil. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) stated an area equivalent to 300 football fields of rainforests are cleared each hour to create space for palm oil production.
- Support companies who produce products which cause minimal harm to both the environment and forests.
- Lastly, through the replantation of trees to replace the trees that are cut down, and limit how many trees in an area can be cut down at one time to support the continued growth of biodiversity across the world.