Over the last decade, the talk of global warming and climate change has dominated major events and conferences. Politicians and global leaders have campaigned on the idea of helping combat the issue of global warming. As such, afforestation has been one of the most talked-about methods of dealing with global warming.
What is Afforestation?
The key idea about afforestation is that it is done in areas that have previously not been forested. This process involves the introduction of trees or tree seedlings to the area, which leads to the area being developed as a forest. Afforestation can be done through tree planting and seedlings, either naturally or artificially.
Usually, afforestation is done on desert lands, places used for grazing, industrial areas, disused agricultural fields, among others. These abandoned are usually chosen due to their poor soil quality, depleted soil, and overgrazing. Through afforestation, the abandoned land can be improved and developed again, improving its soil quality and helping the environment.
In order to consider the tree planting as afforestation, the land should not have been forested at one point. However, it is not impossible that the land could be forested more than 100 years ago, but as long as there is no record of the land being a past forest, then the forest development in the area can be considered as afforestation.
Afforestation vs. Reforestation
Reforestation is a form of afforestation. This process involves the alteration of a non-forested area that has been previously forested through tree planting or seedlings.
The main difference between afforestation and reforestation is the area that they are foresting, in which for reforestation is the restoration of a past forest, and afforestation is the development of a new forest.
The main reasons for afforestation and reforestation are conservational, environmental, and industrial-commercial purposes. In order to save or conserve the ecosystem, conservational afforestation and reforestation is being done. The processes are not randomly executed but are planned carefully through studies in order to avoid further destruction of nature.
Through planting the trees on abandoned land, there will be more habitats for animals and wildlife, and their species will be conserved. Furthermore, the species of the trees planted and the land where the trees are planted will be conserved as well.
On the other hand, afforestation is mostly done in order to answer the continuously growing problem of carbon emissions. Through afforestation, there would be more plants or trees to help absorb carbon dioxide and reduce its content in the air or in the atmosphere.
As carbon dioxide is being reduced through the help of trees, then the problems of climate change and global warming will be answered, even in the smallest way. More than the trees, the soil that is being developed as a forest also absorbs the CO2 from the atmosphere three times more than the trees.
The soil used for the afforestation also gets to be healthy again, and helps in the natural water filtration system. Moreover, afforestation also helps the environment by providing shade for people, habitat for wildlife, and providing food for both human and herbivores.
Furthermore, industrial-commercial afforestation and reforestation are done in order to provide wood supply to the market. The trees are not planted for environmental and habitat purposes, but are planted for future consumption.
The Process of Creating a Forest
Afforestation is done through careful studies and research on the area where the forest is being developed. The factors that are being considered before starting afforestation are soil quality, the environment around it, the right tree to plant, and the natural environmental system in the area.
Aside from that, the number and spacing of trees is determined by the primary goal of the afforestation. Moreover, the prevailing winds, the direction of sunlight in different seasons, and many others are also considered before starting the development of a forest in an area.
To put it simply, afforestation refers to the process of sowing seeds or planting trees in an area that does not have trees to create a forest. According to the Vocabulary, afforestation is “the conversion of bare or cultivated land into forest.” However, afforestation should not be confused with reforestation. Reforestation refers to planting trees on land with a decreasing number of trees.
The forest is not a resource for us, it is life itself. It is the only place for us to live.”
~Evaristo Nugkuag Ikanan
Therefore, reforestation is the process of increasing trees in an existing forest, while afforestation is the process of creating a new forest. In this article, our aim is to look at the importance of afforestation and its various advantages.
Importance of Afforestation
1. Provide an alternative source of tree products
In today’s world, the rate at which trees grow naturally in forests is much slower than the rate at which trees in forests are cut down for production. The increased demand for tree products has put pressure on forests, resulting in deforestation.
Afforestation is helping alleviate the pressure on natural forests by providing an alternative source of tree products. It is mostly done for commercial purposes.
2. Increased supply of trees that are in high demand
In the commercial world, demand is usually high for a specific type of tree. Afforestation allows stakeholders to plant the types of trees in demand, promoting the fast propagation of specific types of trees. The introduction of a new supply of trees, for instance, can help to stabilize the cottage industry, resulting in stable prices and business reliability.
3. Protection of natural forests
Protecting natural forests without providing alternative sources of tree products is very difficult and unsustainable. Besides, logging is more common in places where there are no alternative sources of tree products.
However, when commercial tree users have alternative sources of supply, they can support the administrative and policy efforts to protect forests, resulting in more sustainable initiatives. Protecting natural forests also leads to other benefits that come with increased tree forest cover like the preservation of catchments, wetlands, and riverside zones.
4. Environmental benefits
Planting trees on barren land is, on some occasions, more beneficial than planting trees in a depleted or depleting forest. Planting trees in depleted or recovering forests helps to restore the ecosystem of the area, but planting trees in barren land helps to create a new ecosystem.
Most governments and institutions have used afforestation into help revert the arid and semi-arid areas to productive areas. It also helps improve the appearance of barren lands into picturesque areas.
5. Value addition
An easy way to transform barren land is by planting trees. Land with trees is more attractive and valuable than barren land. Whether one is seeking to develop or sell property, planting trees is a sure way of increasing the property’s value.
Various Advantages of Afforestation
1. A constant supply of forest products
Planting trees on land that was not previously productive ensures that the supply of essential products does not stop. Relying on natural forests can be highly unreliable. It is also not predictive due to government and environmental policies.
Forest harvesting is highly regulated. It is usually common for governments to put a ban on forest harvesting, which can be detrimental to a business that fully relies on forest supplies. Afforestation provides people and businesses with reliable alternative sources of forest supplies.
For example, a company can easily and reliably project its annual sales and production when it has its own land of trees, compared to when it sources its products from natural forests.
Creating new forests also provides the community with fodder, fruit, firewood, and other valuable resources necessary for humans. In addition to making the resources available, afforestation also ensures that the resources are sustainable for the future.
2. Prevents soil erosion
Soil erosion is a common problem in barren lands. Barren land is not the best place to be on a windy day. Barren lands experience strong winds that carry large particles of soil, causing soil erosion while also negatively affecting air quality. A great example is the dust bowl, which was highly associated with intensive farming and large tracts of barren land.
Barren lands are also subject to flooding when it rains, resulting in the topsoil being transported to rivers and water sources in the area. Afforestation helps to address all the issues of soil erosion and barren land at the same time.
Trees act as wind barriers, thereby weakening the speed of the wind and reducing its impact and ability to carry big soil particles. Tree roots also hold the soil together tightly, making sure that the soil stays in place during flooding.
Tree leaves and branches also help to reduce the impact of raindrops on the ground, preventing water drop erosion. Keeping the soil in place ensures that farmers have fertile soil to grow crops. Soil that is held tightly is also less prone to landslides, especially in hilly and mountain regions.
3. Stabilizes the climate
Planting trees is a proven way of transforming arid and semiarid areas. Places with more trees experience more frequent rains, and thus, planting trees is a perfect way to stabilize the climate. Trees also reduce the greenhouse effect, preventing warmer temperatures as they are the world’s only natural air conditioners.
4. Has the potential of reversing global warming and climate change
Global warming is a major concern for global leaders and environmentalists. As such, more and more people are being encouraged to plant trees in their gardens, and afforestation is one of the recommended ways of addressing global warming.
Trees help reverse the greenhouse effect through the process of photosynthesis as they act as carbon sinks. In other words, establishing new forests creates new carbon dioxide holding areas, thereby reducing the carbon dioxide in the environment. The overall outcome is the reduction of the effect of global warming.
5. Better quality air
Trees play an important role in purifying the air. People in areas with trees are less likely to suffer from air-related conditions. Trees purify carbon dioxide and offer oxygen through photosynthesis.
In the last few decades, people have been producing more and more carbon dioxide through their activities like driving, burning fossil fuels, and industrial activities, resulting in more carbon dioxide in the air.
In addition to producing carbon dioxide, human activities like construction have led to the diminishing of forests. The imbalance has led to more toxins in the air. In addition to carbon dioxide and greenhouse emissions, human activities like construction and driving create dust particles in the air, affecting the quality of the air.
Trees not only purify carbon dioxide, but they also purify greenhouse emissions. They also trap soil particles in the air, resulting in better air quality.
6. Improve watershed
Without clean water, the earth could not support life. Humans and animals rely on clean water for their survival, hence the need to protect the watershed. Although most efforts are focused on restoring the existing watersheds, afforestation plays a major role in creating new watersheds.
People living in arid and semiarid regions are the most affected when it comes to a lack of clean water for consumption and household use.
Places with forests have several sources of water as opposed to places without trees, where they mostly rely on floodwater conservation. Afforestation can help improve the watershed of arid and semiarid areas. Trees help to bring more rain to the region. Trees also ensure that the water is better held in the soil, improving the underground water table.
7. Preservation of wildlife
When forests diminish, the wildlife also diminishes. Wild animals suffer most when humans invade forests and their other habitats. Today, most of the places where humans have built cities and estates used to be grazing and dwelling places for wildlife. As human activities continue to expand, so too has the number of wildlife living in unprotected areas has dwindled.
Furthermore, unless drastic measures are embraced, most of these animals will become extinct. Afforestation helps to ensure that there are enough forests for wildlife to thrive in. Those animals pushed from their natural habitats by human activities can relocate to the new forests. For this reason, afforestation can aid in protecting wild animals.
8. Provision of employment and economic opportunities
The timber industry is a big employer. In the construction industry, timber products are the basic components of every building. However, before they become ready for final use on the construction site, they undergo detailed processing. For example, before hardboards can be used in the construction of drawers, they have to be processed from round timber.
The process involves different stages that require a unique set of skills, prompting the need to hire different workers. Furthermore, since afforestation is the process of turning barren lands into forests, they require a huge number of laborers to perform different tasks that include soil digging, sowing seeds, watering plants, and harvesting trees. Most of the people employed in these fields are previously unemployed and usually poor.
In an era where most efforts by administrators and policymakers are devoted to protecting indigenous forests, afforestation is an impressive solution for curbing the over-use and destruction of natural forests.
Afforestation is a more viable solution as it provides raw materials for human use without harming nature. Furthermore, it also extends the benefits of trees and forests to barren lands, resulting in the economic growth of the region.
Afforestation Objectives by FAO
Environmental Requirements of Afforestation