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Biology, Sustainability

Should we really plant all the trees?

I’ve wondered before if all the trees that get planted in the name of saving the planet are actually saving the planet. I mean I question anything that gets used as a one size fits all and trees seem to often fall into that category.

Fagan et al (2022) set out to see how many trees get planted but what they found was that a lot of trees are planted where they shouldn’t be. They are planted in areas where they actually reduce biodiversity, threatening both plants and animals. Or they may be planted in areas where trees just aren’t meant to be because it is too dry and they won’t be able to thrive. Lastly, some tree plantations are actually expanding at the expense of protected natural areas like national parks.

Don’t get me, or the research, wrong, planting trees can have many positives. However, it needs to be done using a systems perspective. We have to consider the area as a whole, with all the interconnections and feedback loops that exist naturally and the ones that will happen because of a tree plantation. Then we need to monitor the area for things we didn’t expect and respond appropriately.

In other words, there isn’t just one way to do tree planting and the way that is used has to be determined on a case by case basis. Otherwise, we’ll have trees that cause more challenges than positives.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.

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