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Tree clear-cutting showing the ravaging effects of deforestation

Showing the ravaging effects of deforestation

Half the World’s Trees Gone

The destruction of many of the world’s forests is occurring and occurring swiftly. Whether the deforestation going on globally is causing climate change and global warming is sometimes debated, but it is pretty much universally agreed that one simple deforestation solution is to plant more trees. It is a cost-effective way to help and The Gifted Tree is doing its best to aid in the cause. More on that in a bit, but another way to help is to stop deforestation by not cutting down as many trees in the first place.

Every year, an estimated 15 billion trees are chopped down across the planet to make room for agricultural and urban lands and other uses. We’ve cut down so many, in fact, that what’s left is about half of the number of trees that the Earth supported before the rise of human civilization, and scientists warn that it’s not helping our climate.

Causes of Climate Change and Global Warming?

Global deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. When trees are cut down, says Stanford University professor Rob Jackson, who chairs the Earth System Science Department and Global Carbon Project, it can release years of a forests’ stored carbon back into the atmosphere. “Forests provide many benefits beyond storing carbon,” Jackson continues. “They store and recycle our water, they prevent erosion, they harbor biodiversity. There’s a legion of reasons to protect forests, especially in the tropics. When we plant forests, we gain some of those benefits, but it takes a long time to grow a healthy forest.” Rebuilding woodland is a slow and often difficult task which requires patience. It can take several decades or longer for forests to regrow as viable habitats, and to absorb the same amount of carbon lost when trees are cut and burned.

Where to Plant is Vital

Global heat map indicating the best places to plant trees on earth

Global heat map indicating the best places to plant trees on earth

What we are learning is that not every spec of earth is suitable for planting trees. Some land does need to be used for crops and pastures, but there is much outlaying and marginal land that can best be served by planting trees on it. Thus, it is vitally important to understand where it is best to plant trees. Using high-tech satellite photography, scientist can determine the natural level of tree cover across a range of ecosystems. A recently released study by a Swiss company in the journal Science estimates there are approximately 2.2 billion acres of land worldwide suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions. The global tree restoration potential report found that there is enough suitable land to increase the world’s forest cover by one-third without affecting existing cities or agriculture. It turns out that more than half the potential to restore trees can be found in just six countries: Russia, USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China. These countries have so much potential because they’ve already removed much of their existing forests, said lead author of the study, Jean-Francois Bastin.

Monitoring Tree Planting is Essential

Successful tree reforestation needs to be done in the right manner. As The Gifted Tree works with tree planting partners around the world, we are learning that programs that work long-term take into account native plant species. There also needs to be a sustained commitment to monitoring forests, not just one-off tree planting events. The upside is this monitoring and educating economically benefits the local population by creating jobs and reduces erosion that damages homes and crops.

When done right, the impact is tremendous. The Swiss study concluded that if all available 2.2 billion acres of new trees were to be planted, around 500 billion saplings, once they reach maturity could absorb 220 gigatons of carbon, the equivalent to about two thirds of man-made carbon emissions since the start of the Industrial revolution. While some of these facts have been challenged as an easy solution to the climate change issue, it is pretty much agreed that the planting of trees matters.

Success Stories From Your Gift Trees

This is why The Gifted Tree is working with dedicated tree partners to not only plant trees, but to monitor their growth to help ensure long-term sustainability. To provide a few examples, take the planting project in Peru where a lot of the forest has been lost to illegal mining. Not only are old growth trees being cut and burned, but miners use diesel pumps to suck up deep layers of the earth, then push the soil through filters to extract gold particles. To turn the particles into nuggets, mercury is stirred in helping bind the particles but also poisoning the land, turning it into desert-like land – dry, sandy, stripped of topsoil and ringed by trunks of dead tree. Our partners are planting saplings of various species native to this part of the Peruvian Amazon, thus when you plant a gift tree in Peru, it is helping bring back the Amazon forest to its original grandeur.

In another project closer to home, focus is on former mining sites in the Appalachian forests of West Virginia and trying to reverse bad planting techniques employed by mining companies in the 1980s. Back then the companies used heavy machinery to push upturned soil back into place. The result was soil so compacted that rainwater would just wash off and not get into the tree roots. The planted species had shallow roots or were non-native trees that could endure but wouldn’t reach their full height or restore the forest to what it had been. Now we understand better what is needed, and your gift trees are native Appalachian trees that can prosper and bring back these forests to what they once were.

Deforestation Solutions: Not an Either-Or Choice

These and other planting projects undertaken by The Gifted Tree planting partners are helping with forest reforestation around the world which we think is one of the best climate change solutions available today. That does not alter the vital importance of protecting existing forests by limiting deforestation since new forests can take decades to mature. Slowing down or putting a halt to deforestation or planting new forests – it’s not an either-or choice. We can do both