Amazon Rain Forest Fire

The Concern

The Amazon Rainforest – the area in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru – is burning at a rate never before seen. The Amazon is regarded as vital in the fight against global warming due to its ability to absorb carbon from the air. It’s often referred to as the “lungs of the Earth,” as more than 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen is produced there. It is hard to get a handle on the exact number of fires, be it 75,000, 90,000, or over 100,000, but one thing is clear, it is a large number and seems to be growing every day, causing significant Amazon deforestation.

Left to its own devices, the Amazon rainforest rarely burns, and the ecosystem is not adapted to deal with fire. The area has been “fire-resistant” for much of its history because of its natural environment, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While drought can be a factor in Amazon rainforest fires, usually caused by major El Niño droughts, there is nothing abnormal about the climate or rainfall amounts in the Amazon this year. The fires can kill many of the trees they encounter, because the thin-barked Amazonian species are not adapted to deal with fire—unlike many species of trees in the western U.S. or Mediterranean climates, which evolved to deal with frequent fires.

The Cause

“The majority of the fires we’re seeing now are because of deforestation,” according to Ane Alencar, the director of science at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute. While the fires themselves are destructive and devastating, she continues that their primary cause and the way they are spreading is cause for more concern.  This year there are 45% more fires in Brazil than there were at this time last year. What is alarming is that many of these fires are deliberately set, not lightening strikes or careless campers, but planned out and propagated by farmers and large corporations for farming, drilling and mining. If you are like me, living in a metropolitan area, I did not understand the reason for the setting of these fires and the deliberate deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. So, I set about trying to learn why and I thought I would relay my findings to help you understand about the Amazon rainforest fires.

Most of the Amazon fires causing deforestation are due to the growth of industrial agriculture in the area. As the world’s population grows, demands for agricultural products also grow. Harvested crops are not just consumed by people in the area, but as cultivation and transportation system get more advanced and sophisticated, production in these areas can be exported, a lot of it to China and its growing middle-class population. Brazil, now the world’s largest soybean producer, has converted 18% of its forest ecosystem since 1970 through clear-cutting and fire to aid livestock, soybean and oil palm cultivation.

Amazon Rainforest Clear-cutting of Trees Causing Deforestation

Amazon Rainforest Clear-cutting of Trees

The Factors

A number of factors contribute to the Amazon deforestation. Cattle farmers start fires deliberately to clear forests to make way for ranching. Additionally, the agro-economic model of the local populations is based on slash and burn farming, a temporary soil fertilization technique that consists of clear-cutting large numbers of trees and leaving the felled trees to dry out. Once the fallen trees have desiccated, they set them on fire providing the plot of soil with nitrogen, leaving behind an open swath of land ready for agricultural activity. While the soil is nutrient rich, it is planted with soybeans. After exhausting exploited land, local farmers abandon it and replicate the process on other nearby land, a circle of endless deforestation.

There is never enough time for reforestation as any regrowth is burned again the next season to plant more product, provided cattle grazing areas, or just never replanted. It is hard to place blame on the local small farmer as this is what they have been taught and they do not understand agroforestry and the techniques available to restore areas of degraded forests without ruining their livelihood. The Gifted Tree’s projects are attempting to reverse this vicious cycle, but more on that later.

The History

Believe it or not, a few decades ago there use to be more fires in the Amazon rain forest. Amazon deforestation peaked in late 1990s and early 2000s. In the worst phases of those peak deforestation periods, over 10,000 square miles of forest could be cut down in a year, much of that cleared area converted directly to cropland for planting soybeans or grazing for cattle. In some years, like in 1998 and 2005, that deforestation activity coincided with major El Niño droughts, and fires were abundant and widespread.

A concerted effort from the Brazilian government after the mid-2000s, as well as coordinated international pressures, led to changes in the management of the forest and agricultural land. The efforts were largely successful: By 2012, the annual deforestation rate bottomed out at about 80 percent lower than the average rate between 1995 and 2006.

Amazon Fire Smoke Plunging Cities Into Darkness

Amazon Fire Smoke Plunging Cities Into Darkness

The Politics

Now there is the question of whether the policies of new president Jair Bolsonaro are a reason for the increase in the current number of fires. As part of his election campaign, Bolsonaro pledged to increase agricultural activity in the Amazon and smooth the way for more development in the region, ignoring international concern over deforestation and climate change. Under his new administration, many scientists, indigenous leaders, and environmental advocates worry that deforestation rates were likely to shoot up again. That fear seems to be playing out. Under Bolsonaro, forest protections have been weakened and enforcement of illegal logging has diminished. The fires burning across the region and choking downwind communities are an all too visible result of this shift in policy.  Furthermore, national policies are causing economic contraction in the cities, chasing workers into the rural areas. This swelling of the rural population is increasing agricultural activity further exacerbating the deforestation problem. As Doug Morton, the chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center exclaims, “These fires are ecologically devastating.”


Brazil Amazon Rain Forest

The Gifted Tree Replanting Project in Brazil’s Amazon Raoinforest

The Answer?

While there is no single answer and reversing this destructive behavior will take a concerted global effort, The Gifted Tree is trying to do its part. Planting your gift tree in the Amazon Rain Forest will have wide-ranging community benefits; restore burned areas, conservation of tropical biodiversity, improvement of the water cycle, diversify forest fruit production, ensure food and nutritional security, and store carbon to fight climate change. Besides tree planting, our program teaches local farmers to integrate agroforestry into their farming practices allowing them to earn more income per acre than before. Thus, they are becoming aware of the importance of forest cover for their food crops, and of the ability of trees planted in and around their fields to enrich cultivated soils. As a result, slash-and-burn farming loses its interest. Your gift tree thus makes it possible to mobilize local populations towards a sustainable agricultural production method and thus break the vicious circle of Amazon deforestation by the rain forest fires.

Madagascar Landscape

No matter where you plant, realize you are making a difference 

You have decided to plant a gift tree – either a memorial tree planted in memory of a loved one (human or pet), or in someone’s name to celebrate one of life’s milestones, perhaps a birthday, anniversary or birth. The Gifted Tree plants gift trees in over 20 countries around the world, the only memorial tree planting company to do so. Now you must decide where you would like to plant the tree. No matter which location you choose, or if you can’t decide and just want to have us plant the gift tree in the area of most need, realize that you are making a monumental difference for the earth and opening a new doorway to the world for future generations.

Beyond forest fires and climate change

Typically, most of us think that our gift tree should be planted to reforest areas that have been devastated by forest fire or negatively affected by climate change. While these are two good and valid reasons for deciding where to plant, there is another important benefit that can be gained by planting your memorial tree in certain locations around the globe; socio-economic gain.

Planting gift trees make a difference in people's lives

Spending the day collecting firewood

This benefit can be difficult to grasp, mainly because in our first world country, we do not experience the difficulties of everyday life encountered by third world communities. A significant amount of deforestation, particularly in African and Asian nations, occur because the population needs the wood just to cook their meals. The sad part is, as time goes on and the wood sources move farther away from homes, citizens, particularly women and children, need to travel miles everyday just to collect firewood to cook that evening’s dinner. The better part of the day is spent gathering wood with little or no time left to work on jobs that would lead to economic gain.

No problem, forest resources are unlimited, Not

The alarming rate of deforestation in these areas is also due to the economic value of the forest, specifically timber products. Deforestation is so serious that individuals have cut down large trees that have been standing for decades for little or no reason at all. Many believe the forest is meant to be exploited or cut down to meet their needs. Bush burning and unsustainable logging are very widespread, and many believe forest resources are unlimited, and that what they take from the forest is too minimal to make a difference.

Beyond planting trees, educating

The gift tree planting projects The Gifted Tree is involved in Africa and Asia have multiple socio-economic benefits. Not only are we planting trees in these regions, but farmers are also being trained in best tree planting methods, nursery preparation, farm conservation and finance, and irrigation management. Most of these individuals have no prior knowledge of proper land management techniques, but this training will be a significant factor in the fight against deforestation. They also learned methods and techniques to protect trees to withstand local climatic conditions and thus help to ensure the newly planted trees’ long-term survival.Planting gift trees changes lives, forever


Planting trees and changing lives, forever

Your planting of a gift tree in these developing nations will include a variety of fruit and nut-bearing trees such as fig, quince, pomegranate, apple, lemon, olive, apricot, orange, pear, and walnut. This social forestry education, coupled with an increase in technology literacy, provides sustenance for the villagers, as well as allowing for job growth in the region, and the ability to earn a sustainable income by selling excess fruit and nuts in the local markets.

By choosing to plant your gift tree in an African or Asian nation, you give families the ability to transition from unsustainable farming techniques to a forest garden system. Your memorial tree not only sustains and empowers the citizens of these regions, but also changes their lives forever.


Beautiful assortment of painted rocks with inspirational messages painted on them

Here at The Gifted Tree, we receive comments from many of you who have received gift trees, and one common thread throughout is that the planting of a gift tree shows that the gift giver really cares. Whether it is to honor a lost loved one or to celebrate one of life’s milestone events, the recipient mentions how it is one of the most thoughtful gifts they have ever received.

The other day, I was on my typical weekend hike in the park when I sat down on a bench to get some wood chips out of my shoe. When I bent down to take off my shoe, I happened to notice a beautifully painted rock sitting in the grass next to one of the legs of the bench. Not only did the sun reflecting off the purple color catch my attention, but the beautifully painted design, along with the words “Life is beautiful, enjoy every moment,” could not be ignored.

I picked the rock up for a closer inspection, and on the other side were painted words directing me to the website  Painted rock with GoRock website URL and identifier number painted on the bottomPutting the rock in my water bottle holder pouch, I logged onto the website once I was back in my office. I discovered that this wasn’t some random rock that had fallen out of a kid’s backpack, but it had purposely been placed for someone to find, and that someone was me. Online, I could type in the rock identifier number on the label and discover where the rock was painted and the path it had taken before I discovered it.

It brought a smile to my face, and also the realization that the person who painted this rock had some of the same motives as our gift tree customers – wanting to show he or she cares. Just as The Gifted Tree plants gift trees in 20+ locations around the world, GoRock is a global community of rock painters spreading positive vibes all over the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

And just as you can virtually visit the areas around the world where your gift tree has been planted, on, you can see how many people have found that rock, and on a virtual world map, the journey that rock has taken around the globe.

Beautifully painted rock with inspirational message laying next to tree trunkAnd just as planting a gift tree can help you express your feelings, show you care, and connect on a personal level with someone important to you, finding a simple painted rock can help spread love, joy, and inspiration. Both gift trees and painted rocks stand out and have a lasting impact. Now I just must decide where I will re-hide the rock so that I can bring a smile to someone else’s face and have them create their own story of discovery!


Yours treely,



Lone tree in a field with magnificent sunset

Last week was World Environment Day, the United Nations’ day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. This year’s theme was Air Pollution and asking the world to come together to beat it. Unarguably, air pollution is a complex matter, but also unarguably, the planting of trees is definitely a step in the right direction for improving the quality of the air that we all breathe.

The relationship between trees and air pollution is a complicated one, but with half a football field of forest destroyed every second, we need to understand the impact the loss of trees will have on the quality of our air, and how planting trees will benefit all of us.

Trying to keep this as simple as possible, heat from the earth is trapped in the atmosphere due to high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping gases that prohibit it from releasing the heat into space. This creates a phenomenon known today as the “greenhouse effect.” Trees help by removing CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis to form carbohydrates that are used in plant structure/function and return oxygen back into the atmosphere as a byproduct. Roughly half of the greenhouse effect is caused by CO2. Therefore, trees act as carbon sinks, alleviating the greenhouse effect.Trees in a Forest

In urban areas, trees also reduce the greenhouse effect by shading houses and office buildings. This reduces the need for air conditioning by up to 30 percent which in turn reduces the amount of fossil fuels burned to produce electricity. The combination of CO2 removal from the atmosphere, carbon storage in wood and the cooling effect makes trees extremely efficient tools in fighting the greenhouse effect and thus, air pollution.

Trees also remove gaseous air pollution by uptake via leaf stomata or simply, the leaf pores.  Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and intercept airborne particulates (major health hazards in air pollution) out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark. Trees along urban roadways can reduce the presence of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere within a few hundred yards of the roadside verge. All of this scientific jargon basically means that trees reduce the concentration of bad stuff in the air that we breathe

Planting trees remains one of the most cost-effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. If every American family planted one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually. This equates to almost 5 percent of the amount that human activity pumps into the atmosphere each year.

Taken together, there is no doubt that trees provide a net positive benefit to the environment, which is why it is almost uniformly true that neighborhoods with lots of trees command greater housing values than Runner in a tree lined urban parkwaythose without. You can help by planting memorial gift trees and gift trees celebrating milestone events for people or pets. The Gifted Tree makes it easy to do, and with our innovative and amazing presentation certificates, it will show you care, as well as make a difference.  Plant your gift tree to help forests devastated by fire or climate change, and improve the quality of the air we breathe!

Forest and Mountain Stream

One question we receive frequently at The Gifted Tree concerns the role trees play in the keeping our water supply safe and clean. When one thinks of forests and majestic trees, a lot of us understand the vital role trees play in helping clean the air we breathe by acting as filters and removing harmful particles and pollutants.  Those same people are less familiar with the role trees play in purifying our water sources, including those that provide drinking water for millions of Americans every day.

Water is probably the most vital resource for our survival. Whether it be for drinking water or washing our clothes, the average American uses an estimated 80-100 gallons of water per day. For many of us, having access to clean drinking water and running water in our homes is a necessity that we often take for granted.

People are not the only ones who count on water for survival. Trees and animals also need water for their existence. Water availability has a direct impact on the health of forests and their inhabitants. Trees are made up of more than 50 percent water and need a steady source of it in order to grow and stay healthy. A single mature oak can consume over 40,000 gallons of water in a year!

Tree in Front of Magnificent WaterfallOkay, trees need water to survive, but how do they help in improving our water quality? Trees improve water quality by slowing rain as it falls to the Earth, and helping it soak into the soil. Trees then serve as natural sponges, collecting and filtering rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers. Tress are the most effective land cover for maintenance of water quality. They prevent soil from eroding into our waterways which contribute to poor water quality, reduce storm water runoff, and lessen flood damage. Furthermore, the movement of water from the ground, through trees and leaves and back to the environment, allows for clouds to form and significant precipitation to fall.

Having a buffer of forestland by streams and riverbanks does more than just filtering the water. Planting and maintaining woody vegetation along streams provide a wealth of benefits, including filtering sediment, removing nitrogen and phosphorous leaching from adjacent agricultural land uses, and providing stability to the bank through a wood root system. Forest cover has been directly linked to reducing drinking water treatment costs and helping to recharge the water table by allowing water to enter the ground, so the more forest in a source water watershed, the lower the cost to treat that water.

Now you know another of the multitude of benefits trees provide. Luckily, one easy way to protect and clean our water supply is to plant trees, and The Gifted Tree can help. We plant gift trees to show you care – memorial trees in remembrance of a lost loved one, human or pet, or gift trees to celebrate a milestone event.  Not only will you be remembered due to the unique and innovative presentation tree certificate the recipient will receive, but you are giving the world a gift too – clean water.

Trees and Mountain Stream

One question we get at The Gifted Tree is “Why plant again after a forest fire, aren’t you just setting the scenario for another forest fire?” As with most issues in life, there are two sides to the story. Since here at The Gifted Tree we plant gift trees, I will lean toward the “plant again” side.

Wildfire is a necessary and important part of a natural landscape, but it is undeniable that some wildfires have harsh and negative impacts on communities, water resources, outdoor recreation resources, and fish and wildlife habitat. In these cases, post-fire restoration can be crucial to prevent further damage and to spur recovery. Reforestation is important in creating wildlife habitat, decreasing soil erosion, encouraging snow retention, sequestering carbon, providing clean air and water, and reestablishing native tree species and future seed sources.

Damage from some wildfires doesn’t always stop once the flames are suppressed and the smoke clears, and is sometimes more devastating than the fire itself. Loss of vegetation as a result of an intensely burning large fire can expose soil to erosion. We have all read about the recent fires in California followed by torrential rains creating massive and deadly mud slides.

The sight of blackened earth after a fire is hard to take, but in this plight, patience is a virtue. While every fire situation is different, post-fire restoration is a process that can take years. Sometimes the trees can grow back on their own – the blackened trees lining the ground hide what is going on their underside ─ sometimes there is new growth which can spawn new trees as well as provide a habitat for wildlife such as birds. Also. while the temperatures at surface level can be very high, destroying all vegetation, just below the surface, the temperatures can be quite normal. Thus, in certain situations, root systems remain intact and will regenerate on their own.

In other situations, fires burn with such intensity that no seed source remains, and humans need to be the catalyst. In these situations, the reforestation action starts with a seed, literally. The forest service is in the business of constantly collecting seeds from different elevations and different species of trees from forests all over the country. These seeds are carefully labeled so that when they are needed, they are replanted in the exact area where, or very near to where, they were harvested. In fact, in addition be being geographically replanted in the same area, seeds are planted at the same elevation within 700 feet from where they were collected. That means a Ponderosa Pine seed collected in Colorado would not be planted in Idaho. Or one collected in Northern Colorado would not be replanted in Southern Colorado. If collected and handled properly, these seeds can be viable for 30 to 40 years.

The Gifted Tree works with partners who focus on planting where the greatest reforestation needs exist, in areas impacted by large-scale fires or insects and disease where there is virtually no probability the area will reforest on its own. In those cases, seeds are ordered from the seed bank nursery and the nursery workers find the ones collected from the area when the devastation occurred.

Once the seeds are carefully inspected and the duds discarded, they are planted in holes made in large Styrofoam blocks. Those blocks lay end-to-end in the glass greenhouse, where workers nurse them along until the next viable planting season. That means the seedlings will not be ready to plant until at least one year after a fire. At the same time, Forest Service experts prepare the burned area and make sure it is safe for the workers and the soil is ready for planting.

At precisely the right moment, usually late spring, or early summer, the baby trees are shipped back to the forest for planting. They have a very high survival rate because they are genetically ready for the climate, altitude and soil conditions of the area.

Reforestation is a scientifically honed process, a picture that takes a while to complete. The Gifted Tree works with agencies that not only plant your gift tree where it has the best chance for growth but revisit the planting areas for several years after to ensure long-term viability. So whether the gift tree is planted in memory of a lost loved one, or to celebrate a happy life event, know that a lot of scientific thought went into the planting ensuring that your gift tree will have a lasting impact and be a gift to the earth as well.  Discover more on the three steps to planting a gift tree at

Yours treely,



One of the hardest things in life is reaching out to someone who has just lost a loved one. A lot of us want to avoid those in that situation and look the other way. Either we don’t know what to say, how to say it, or are afraid of saying the wrong thing. While it is tempting to ignore the situation, reaching out is probably the best thing you can do for that person.  It can go a long way in helping a grieving individual or family get through a difficult time. Your kind words can bring a moment of comfort during a difficult time, and including a planting of a gift tree in remembrance is a gesture that will not only leave a lasting impact, but is also good for the earth, bringing life full circle.

My suggestion is always find time to reach out to that person or family with a personal note as opposed to email or text. Whether you live close to the person or far away, whether you knew the person they lost well or not at all, take the time to connect. It can actually be preferable to share your sympathies in a card as opposed to bringing it up to the person the next time you see them. It  can make it easier when you do see that person as they will know that you have already reached out and it will make that experience less awkward.

I can’t stress enough about sending a tangible expression of sympathy. It won’t sit there “not opened” in an email box, or worse yet, get lost in a spam filter. It also gives the recipient more control over when it is read. Furthermore, a condolence note can be read over and experienced in the privacy of one’s home.



Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be in flowery language. Remember that you are not trying to fix anything. The recipient just wants to know you are thinking of them and feeling for them during a difficult time. When struggling to find just the right words, The Gifted Tree provides some guidance and heartfelt samples so that your voice and sentiments shine through. The Gifted Tree also has a range of presentation options that will really show the recipient that you care. A beautiful forest scene note card enclosure is also available allowing you to express additional thoughts that you don’t want to include on the tree certificate.

Finally, it is never too late to connect and plant a tree in memory of a loved one. Many people find that they are surrounded by love in the days surrounding their loss but find themselves grieving and feeling very alone weeks and months down the road when everyone else seems to have forgotten. Receiving a memorial gift tree a few months later, or even on the first anniversary of a death, can go a long way toward helping a grieving person feel remembered and supported, and letting them know you care.


Yours Treely,
Doug and Laura