“In the face of impending climate catastrophe, there has been a growing clamor to repopulate the trillions of trees our planet has lost over the centuries,” says the Guardian. But large-scale tree planting is not helping, and in some cases it’s creating more problems for the environment. In the YouTube video below, Josh Toussaint-Strauss discusses how we’ve been getting tree planting wrong, and what we should be doing instead to safeguard precious ecosystems and reduce greenhouse gases.
“The right trees in the right place are a good thing,” says Toussaint-Strauss. Choosing the right location and the right tree for it, is crucial, says Toussaint-Strauss, who provides the example of Israel’s Yatir forestation of a natural desert, now adding to global warming due to increased albedo. The wrong location can deplete groundwater, dry up streams, and kill off peatland (itself a major CO2 sequester).
An ecological approach is required that considers: appropriate type of soil, local climate, other biota and what is being planted (e.g. native vs. non-native). Tree planting long-term success relies on using an ecosystem approach. This does NOT include the use of monoculture tree plantations, which do not form a natural ecosystem, store less carbon, lack biodiversity, do not contribute ecosystem functionality, and are susceptible to disease. This also does NOT include planting with later harvest in mind. Plant the trees and leave them there, to grow, die, and replenish the ecosystem.
More importantly, we must leave currently intact forest ecosystems alone. Let them flourish and do their job for the planet. We must focus on natural forest regeneration by giving already established forests room to thrive and expand—not cut them down for timber or agriculture. Deforestation removes close to 10 billion trees of intact primary forest ecosystem every year.
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press(Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” was released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.