There are many ways to define the action of planting trees, as we at Treedom well know.
Forestation, afforestation, reforestation, planting... Let’s unravel the tangle of technical terms together and discover the thousand nuances of sustainable forest management.
Deforestation: understanding why to decide how
Before moving on to analysing ways to plant new trees, we need to take a step back and talk, unfortunately, about deforestation. In the report published by the WWF in 2020 entitled “Deforestation Fronts: Drivers and Responses in a Changing World”, 24 deforestation fronts were identified in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania. In these places, more than 43 million hectares of forest were lost between 2004 and 2017 – an area roughly the size of Morocco.
According to the WWF study, the major cause of deforestation in these places is the expansion of commercial agriculture, on both a large and small scale. This is followed by infrastructure and extraction activities but also urbanisation and road development. In short, there are different causes which change according to the countries and their current economic situation.
For this reason, when creating a reforestation plan, it is important first of all to ask ourselves the reasons that initially led to the exploitation of natural resources. Only in this way can we act in a targeted manner, bringing sustainable environmental, social and economic benefits in the long term.
Forest management, urban greenery and crops: maintaining balance
We come then to the semantics: all actions aimed at improving or increasing a territory’s forests fall within the definition of forestation.
There are many ways to carry out forestation and it is up to us to choose which way we take, depending on the conditions we’re in and the results we want to achieve.
But to clarify, let’s start with a simple question: where do we want to plant?
According to the United Nations definition, we talk about afforestation when we act in an area that hasn’t been forest for at least 50 years, while we speak of reforestation when we act on previously forested land which has been converted to other uses in the past.
It’s a subtle distinction, but one that entails a completely different regulatory framework and type of management; meadows and pastures also play an important role in biodiversity conservation, so it’s not always a good idea to force the conversion to forest.
But we can also plant trees in a city environment: in this case we can speak of urban forestry. This practice, widely discussed in recent years, involves both woods on the edge of urban areas and more limited areas such as public parks, private gardens and any type of green space like tree-lined avenues, squares, escarpments and cemeteries.
Urban forestry plans are a powerful means of obtaining environmental and social benefits at the local level: they mitigate the effect of heat islands and reduce air pollution while creating new spaces for social aggregation.
However, this area is managed mostly by public administrations, is bound by strong bureaucratic limits, and has only recently been framed in a coherent national strategy in Italy.
There is, however, a separate discussion to be had about the management of meadows, pastures and crops. In this case, the main objective is to allow farmers and breeders to continue their work in a sustainable way by preventing the reduction of forests to make way for arable and grazing areas.
An example of sustainable agricultural and pastoral management practice and agroforestry. This involves planting the same areas with trees and shrubs of forest and fruit species alongside annual crops and pastures.
The Treedom model
For over ten years Treedom has been actively working, with the help of its entire community, to combat deforestation.
By financing agroforestry projects in those countries where the world’s main deforestation fronts are found.
By associating trees of forest and fruit species with crops and pastures, we give rural populations an alternative income and livelihood. At the same time, by encouraging other crops besides annual ones, we reduce the anthropogenic pressure on forests and prevent deforestation. We increase the local biodiversity, enrich and consolidate the soil and, last but not least, contribute to the absorption of CO2.