Human activities have long had an intense impact on our planet. One of those impacts is deforestation, or the human-driven and natural loss of trees.
As a result of deforestation, the world has lost 420 million hectares (MHA), or approximately 10.34 % of its total forest area, in the last 30 years, according to the 2022 edition of The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) released May 2, 2022.
And while reforestation is a major means of recovering forest trees, there are other methods that can help, including afforestation. Some countries around the world use afforestation to improve people’s lives and combat desertification, such as China’s Great Green Wall. That leads us to a discussion of the various types of afforestation and when they are used.
Afforestation is the planting of trees in areas that are treeless or where forests never existed before or have not existed for centuries. It is the process of creating a forest by planting completely new forests where there was previously no forest cover.
These forests can provide new habitats for wildlife, provide jobs and economic benefits to local communities, and increase the planet’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide. Afforestation is done through careful studies and research on the area where the forest is been developed.
Afforestation is a large-scale activity and it is necessary to understand the climate, quality of the soil, conditions of the area to be afforested and the right tree to be planted. It is also important to understand the biological requirements of the species to be used for afforestation.
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Types of Afforestation and When to Use Each
Just as there is the process of deforestation by which the forest mass is lost, we also have afforestation. It is the process of planting trees so that a commercial plantation can be established or mitigated the ecological damage that has been caused to a natural forest.
Normally, this afforestation goes through a process of rehabilitation and restoration of a natural area. Because each species or combination of species has unique requirements, the types of afforestation are extremely diverse.
In this article we are going to look at the types of afforestation and when they are used.
- Commercial Forest Plantations
- Natural Regeneration
- Carbon Farming
- Artificial Regeneration
- Environmental Afforestation
- Recreational Afforestation
1. Commercial Forest Plantations
This is a classic forest plantation that produces wood and derivatives, from one or more tree species. Commercial forest plantations are planted with the goal of producing a specific product, such as timber or paper pulp.
They can as well store carbon, but will eventually be harvested. Depending on what is grown, that carbon may be released again. In some cases, native forests are cleared to make way for these plantations.
One important aspect of commercial forests is that each area of forest or forest land is home to only one species. In as much as there are numerous species,
Among the types of afforestation, this type is put to use for the purpose of generating income or revenue, whereby the forest produce is harnessed and sold for income generation.
In some commercial plantations, it may be advantageous to increase trunk length while decreasing trunk diameter. In this case, the trees will be planted closer together. The logs are extracted and transported to the market for sale. This afforestation is not done for habitation or environmental purposes.
A typical example of such afforestation is the Uverito Forest in Mesa de Guanipa in eastern Venezuela. It was originally the largest artificial forest cloth in the world, with a plantation area of 600.000 hectares of Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea).
2. Natural Regeneration
Natural regeneration is a process by which woodlands are replenished by trees that develop from seeds that fall and germinate in forest sites. Natural forests are the most effective at absorbing carbon and creating new habitats.
Planted with a wider variety of species, they have the potential to one day become multi-dimensional forests that provide a home for a diverse range of wildlife species and provide rich ecosystem services over time.
Natural regeneration is used when there is a need to reproduce already existing trees in a particular forest area, aiding the development of a natural community.
It is usually less expensive to initiate and makes use of trees that are proven to grow in the native soil and can be established in high densities that produce straight high-quality stem
3. Carbon Farming
Many agricultural, horticultural, forestry and garden soils are a net carbon source. Most farming is intended to produce something that’s harvested from the land.
Carbon farming is the opposite. It makes use of flora to trap CO2, alongside using strategic practices such as reducing, tilling, planting longer-rooted crops, and incorporating organic materials into the soil to encourage the trapped carbon to move into and stay in the soil.
Carbon farming, categorically, is the practice of using trees that have the most carbon [storage], often two to 10 times more carbon per hectare.
The potential for reversing the net movement of CO2 into the atmosphere through the improved plant and soil management is immense.
Indeed, managing vegetative cover in ways that enhance the capacity of soil to sequester and store large volumes of atmospheric carbon in a stable form offers a practical and almost immediate solution to some of the most challenging issues currently facing humankind.”
It is mainly used to restore balance by naturally reabsorbing excess carbon dioxide or changing land management practices to reduce the number of greenhouse gases emitted from human activities.
4. Artificial Regeneration
It is the planting of or sowing of seeds of acceptable growing stock to repopulate a site. This is accomplished by the planting of seedlings or by direct planting of seeds.
Direct seeding is reserved for remote or inaccessible areas where seedling planting is not cost-effective. A few tree species, such as poplars (Populus species) and willows (Salix species), are artificially reproduced from cuttings.
Unlike natural regeneration, artificial regeneration offers a greater opportunity than natural regeneration to modify the genetic constitution of a species. The most important decision made in artificial regeneration is the selection of the species used in each new stand.
The species chosen should be adapted to the site. The most successful introductions are obtained by moving species to the same latitude and position on the continent that they occupied in their native habitat.
An example of such is the conifers of the western coasts of North America, which have been successful at the latitude of western Europe.
5. Environmental Afforestation
In some cases, the establishment of plantations is not for forest production, but for the environment. The environmental forest plantation is primarily used for the preservation of forests that are threatened by abuse.
An example of this for environmental protection purposes is the Great Green Wall of China. This is the largest afforestation project in the world, with the goal of reaching approximately 2.250 square kilometers.
6. Recreational Afforestation
This afforestation is open to the public and can provide wonderful opportunities for responsible recreation such as camping, fishing, hiking, sightseeing, nature study, hunting, etc.
An example of a recreational purpose is Central Park in New York. In some areas, the recreational forest may look like a natural forest; however, it is designed on purpose. As the name implies, it is used mostly for recreational purposes.
In agriculture, forestry and livestock, tree planting, annual crops or pastures, and livestock farming are complementary to each other.
In this case, afforestation is combined with legume or maize crops, regardless of whether there was a forest before. While the carbon storage capacity can vary depending on the crop, this type of planting often provides a much-needed source of food and income for local residents and can be leveraged to increase the carbon capacity of already-established agricultural sites
This type of afforestation, when done correctly, is an interesting environmental accomplishment and can be great for the environment. However, when done incorrectly, large-scale planting can result in a significant change in land use, thereby increasing the price of food and engendering land competition.
Planting on low-quality pasture and grassland can alleviate this, but often requires the use of nitrogen fertilizers that release harmful greenhouse gases.
And selecting the right type of afforestation is necessary to make sure local communities are not deprived of the economic benefits of their land which can fuel further deforestation.
Furthermore, It is very important to carefully consider the species planted to make sure the trees survive and do not negatively affect the local environment.
Agroforestry is a type of afforestation used for important economic purposes. Trees are planted for crop production, such as cacao, mangoes, avocados, nuts, and animal husbandry systems. It is a type of afforestation done for agricultural production.
Human activities like the intensive exploitation of natural resources, overpopulation, pollution, and deforestation are seriously damaging the earth. People move into the forest and cut trees for agriculture and settlement.
Deforestation ultimately results in flooding, landslides, soil erosion, famine, drought, etc. The high hills with fewer trees cause landslides which cause huge environmental and economic losses.
While trees take a long time to mature, they are the best natural resource we have to capture carbon, protect fertile land from desertification and flooding, and maintain healthy biodiversity on our planet.
Afforestation is the need for time. It is the best solution to many climate change problems. If we keep our environment and our natural system good for a long time, we must save future generations.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.