The right way to plant trees
Planting trees is great for the environment — but only if you do it right. Here's how.
Working on a complete ecosystem restoration
“It would be great if we could think beyond just planting trees and think about ecosystem restoration. So it's not just trees that are doing the job.”, Carla Staver, an ecologist from Yale University explains. Staver shares 5 tips with Brut on how to plant trees in order to help our ecosystem.
Pick a place where trees used to grow
“So, there are certainly places where forests were once extensive, and are no longer extensive. Those are great candidates for reforestation. That's actually something we've seen happen a lot on the East Coast of the United States. When European colonists arrived in North America, they basically cut a bunch of forest down and started farming, and then as colonists moved west and started farming out West instead, we've seen the regeneration of a lot of forests. But actually I think that there's some easier answers. A lot of us live in cities and suburban areas, and cities and suburban areas would be sort of universally happier places with more greenery and more parks and more trees. So, if you want to plant a tree in your backyard, that is a no-brainer.”, she reveals.
Make sure it's somewhere that needs trees
There's a temptation to imagine that if it rains enough to support a forest, if the environment is appropriate to support a forest, then there historically have been forests there. And that turns out not to be the case. So, there's a lot of climate spaces that where forests are possible but where historically some other ecosystem dominated. So, in the United States a good example of that is the northern American Midwest. So, regions in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois historically had a climate that was appropriate for supporting forests, but actually were dominated by much more open ecosystems. And actually, those are ecosystems where we've seen big forest expansions. And what was there before were extremely biodiverse grasslands. Prairie grasslands that are now extremely threatened. And then what's really interesting is that there's a lot of carbon below ground as well. And so, the carbon sequestration potential of native prairie can be very high as well. And it can start to approach the carbon sequestration potential of trees.”, Staver claims.
Make sure the tree won't become a hazard
“In some places, planting trees can result in adverse and unforeseen consequences. Essentially what you're doing when you plant trees is you create a bunch of shade that shades out the grass, that is the lynchpin of any open grassy ecosystem. A couple of years ago there were fires in Portugal that really burned into suburban and urban areas and they were a threat to lives and livelihoods. They were really catastrophic fires in Portugal. And most of those fires were burning through plantation forests. So those were trees that had been planted in an ecosystem that historically is very fire prone. And so, another thing to consider is whether you live in an area that historically has had a lot of fire and might tend to become increasingly fire-prone under global change scenarios. Within the United States context just from watching the news you'll be aware that California, Oregon, Washington, tend to be fairly fire prone. There's also been some catastrophic wildfires in Texas.”, she discloses.
Pick a species that fits the environment
“What type of tree you choose is important. That tree is likely to do better and is likely to yield more benefits if the tree species that you choose is something local. So, if you choose something that comes from the place where you live, that's going to have a number of benefits beyond just carbon sequestration.”, Staver tell Brut.
Think about what else you can do to stop climate change
“There's a huge amount of appeal to planting a tree, because you plant a tree in your backyard, and then you don't have to change a lot about your lifestyle. And I think the harder truth here is that doing something about global change is going to require all of us to make changes to lifestyle that are more profound than that. It is not a solution by itself. And it's probably not even the primary solution. If that's all we do, even if we do it perfectly, if we could plant a trillion trees, it's just not going to solve the problem in the way that has been promised.”, she concludes.