Reforestation is undoubtedly one of the top ecological concerns at hand. Each year, roughly 15 billion trees are cut down globally. Their materials are used for commercial goods, energy, and other commodities, but their absence in the forest is hardly replaced. Instead, the trees are cut down and transformed to fit our needs, leaving a gap in ecosystems across the planet.
The logical answer to this problem would be to plant a tree for every tree that's cut down, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. There's the time frame that it takes for a tree to reach full maturity, plus the specifications for native vs. non-native trees. Plus, many areas of the world rely on forested areas for their livelihoods. As we deplete our local forests, it's just a matter of time before operations move towards other forests, including the ones that provide a source of shelter and income for many people groups.
In order to tackle the issue of deforestation, we need to look at options for reforestation. Reforestation consists of repopulating an area of trees that have been harvested from. The methods to do so can vary from place to place, depending on the resources available. Here are 3 of the most popular methods of reforestation happening currently:
Tons of start-ups across the world are using what is known as the "seed ball" method. The strategy behind this concept is to take the seed of any given plant or tree, wrap it in soil materials, and then dry it out. Once dry, the seed balls can be tossed in an open area to begin growing. Typically, the soil materials used consist of clay and compost, making a sturdy structure to home the seeds until they are ready to sprout.
Because this method is so versatile, putting the seed balls to work is simple. Some proponents of the seed ball (also known as seed bomb) choose to simply go on a walk and sporadically toss the balls into less dense areas. Others are known to use drones, which can fly over vast areas of land and release the balls wherever desired. Or, to encourage reforestation in a child-friendly way, some people even use slingshots to make planting into a game.
Seed balls are a versatile method to encourage reforestation
Habitat Building/ Encouraging Wildlife Settling
Naturally, forests are able to sustain themselves. This is largely due to the animals and surrounding plant life that call the same areas home. The various bird species and insects make it possible for seeds to make their way across a given geographical area, keeping the location dense and diverse, as it was intended to be.
But as forests are depleted, so are natural habitats. Birds and other wildlife are no longer able to settle into their previous homes, and are instead forced to find new places to settle. This phenomenon then causes further damage to the forest because it loses its seed gathering and delivering services from the wildlife.
In order to face this reality, many people are turning to methods for habitat building to draw wildlife back into the forests. Whether it was their original home or a completely new location, the forests need these animals to survive. Bringing wildlife back into the equation is a natural and effective way to encourage the process of reforestation.
This method is far from immediate gratification. Silviculture is the intensive study of specific tree species and locations to best understand how to improve their growth and health. The goal of this study is to find the strongest trees native to a region and discover which strengths and weaknesses species can ensure under given circumstances.
Silviculture also allows for the observation of our current trees' offspring in the circumstances of deforestation. Once their weaknesses are identified in the given circumstances, a new splice of genes will be administered so that the trees can reforest themselves. Depending on the location of the forest, the needs for various species and the climate concerns will all be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Studying trees under various circumstances allows scientists to better understand how to approach reforestation
The Dangers of Deforestation
Trees play an integral role in the wellbeing of our planet. From animals to water to the atmosphere, trees are a necessity for the Earth's inhabitants. But with the alarming decline of forests across the world, major concerns are arising regarding what deforestation means for us now, and in the long-run.
Currently, forests cover about 30% of our planet's landmass. However, that rate is on a steady decline, so much so that it is estimated that all forests will be gone by 2100. Once all of the forests are depleted, we'll start seeing major changes all across the planet; not just in areas of forestation. Native wildlife will have to find new places to live, and we can expect some population decline from certain species as well.
Then, there's the carbon factor. Trees naturally absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide from the air. When they're cut down and not replaced, the carbon levels in the atmosphere increase. To make matters worse, the whole process of harvesting these trees also contributes largely to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. In fact, it is estimated that 15% of all greenhouse gases are a result of the deforestation process, according to the WWF.
While the efforts being made for reforestation are hopeful, they won't be enough to reverse the environmental damages already done. After our years of excessive fossil fuel usage and careless depletion of natural resources, we're facing an environmental crisis, one that unfortunately doesn't have a clear-cut answer.
Alongside reforestation methods, there are several things in our daily lives that we can do to help preserve our resources and cut back on emissions. Recycling packaging (when possible) and transitioning to a more plant-based diet are two great starting points. By making a few simple changes, the environmental potential is huge if we all do our part.