There are two reasons for large-scale tree planting: reforestation and agroforestry. Both are necessary to fight climate change.
A quick glance at this article’s title image might give the impression that the pictured grove of trees is a forest. It is, in the sense that it is a large area covered with trees. However, it is also a World Tree farm, meant to one day help fill the increasing demand for lumber once the trees have been harvested.
Why harvest the trees? Why not reforest the area?
When thinking of tree planting, most people think of planting trees for forest restoration. Reforestation remains an important nature-based solution when it comes to fighting climate change. Trees and forests sequester more than 14 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions in the United States each year and are critical for housing many of the country’s endangered species.
Yet, ultimately these questions get to the heart of why World Tree was founded. Our founder, Wendy Burton, started World Tree in order to protect old-growth forests—unsustainable forestry practices still account for a large amount of the world’s deforestation. Through sustainable lumber farming, we can reduce how much lumber comes from our critical forests.
As our CEO wrote in a recent article, reforestation without “offering a viable substitution for a needed resource is untenable. We must be able to supply eco-friendly, renewable farmed timber to replace lumber derived from old-growth forests.” Planting trees to be used as sustainable lumber removes one of the incentives for deforesting an area.
What else? Is there any other reason for agroforestry beyond helping forest restoration efforts?
Of course! All trees sequester carbon. For example, one acre of the Empress tree (Paulownia fortunei and elongata) can capture and store between 15-30 metric tons of carbon per year. And, trees do not stop sequestering carbon simply because they are grown on a lumber farm.
However, it is true that all trees have their own life cycle and when trees decay, their stored carbon is released back into the air. Harvesting trees after large amounts of carbon have been sequestered and using them for long-lasting products lets us keep the carbon out of the atmosphere.
Will there be more recognition on the importance of both reforestation and agroforestry as solutions to climate change?
Trees have a critical part to play in fighting climate change. Many people have long understood this fact and, fortunately, there is increasing understanding that sustainable agroforestry (rather than just forest restoration) is an essential piece in the climate solution.
Though much of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act focuses on funding for climate-smart technology, the act includes billions of dollars in funding for trees-related climate solutions. Some of this funding will go toward planting urban trees, some will be used to help with sustainable forestry practices, but most of this funding will be put toward sustainable agriculture and agroforestry.