How Does Reforestation Help Global Warming


It’s no secret that the forests on our planet have been under siege for some time now. Areas that have been free from human involvement for thousands of years are now being ripped apart in favor of increased profits and human development.


planting trees, like the Tropical Forest in Gabon, Africa, pictured here, removes carbon from our atmosphere

Image Public Domain, via NASA.gov

One of the ways we can combat this problem is through reforestation. Reforestation is the replanting of trees in areas that were devastated by manmade or natural deforestation.

Ahead, we’ll take a look at some of the problems with deforestation and how reforestation can reverse them. We’ll also get into some of the specifics of reforestation. More trees aren’t always the answer if they’re the wrong kind, so environmentalists have to be careful with their recommendations.


Deforestation and Climate Change


Before you can accurately understand the importance of reforestation, we have to talk about deforestation and how it harms the environment and contributes to global warming.

deforestation

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Deforestation is among the leading causes of manmade climate change, and continuing on this path will only accelerate the process. Forests are being cut down, and habitats are being destroyed every year.

Logging companies, farmers, and other kinds of businesses all have a hand in cutting down the world’s forests. The more people that are on this planet, the more space we need for farming and the more products we need in general.

Loggers are some of the larger culprits that contribute to deforestation. They will sometimes even illegally cut down trees to make roads for easier access routes.

Some farmers will cut out a swath of forest and burn the trees around them. Not only will the deforestation contribute to global warming, but the farming they do on the land will as well.

Frequent Forest Fires

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Of course, nature plays a role in deforestation as well. Wildfires clear out dead trees and other plants, and animals that aren’t kept in check by predators can overgraze an area and stifle plant growth.

Still, humans are not helping when it comes to deforestation, which can have a devastating effect on the environment.


How Does Deforestation Affect the Environment?


Deforestation has a devastating effect on the environment. Many people have made the comparison of trees being the earth’s lungs. The more we destroy, the more we contribute to global warming.

The floor of a healthy Costa Rican rainforest. Photo by Author

The trees aren’t there to absorb the greenhouse gasses we emit, so more make it into the atmosphere. The fewer trees there are on the planet, the faster we’ll destroy the environment.

While this factor might be one of the more commonly cited, it’s far from the only way deforestation harms the environment. Local wildlife loses its environment and is forced to move. Most of the animals on the planet live in forests, and destroying their homes eventually leads to endangerment and possibly extinction.

These trees also protect the ground soil from the sun. The soil will remain moist, and the water cycle will continue uninterrupted as long as trees are there to regulate temperatures. Without them, the soil will dry, and the area will become a desert.


What is Reforestation?


Reforestation, in many ways, is the exact opposite of deforestation. This term refers to the replanting and replacement of trees to stimulate the local ecosystem and improve the environment.

multiple reforestation efforts

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Multiple reforestation efforts have been put underway after deforestation has cleared out the trees and wildlife in the area. Reforestation mostly refers to planting trees and other plants that are local to the area and allowing the species that reside in these places to take root once again.

Although the bulk of reforestation is designed to improve the environment, some efforts are focused on sustainable harvesting wood for paper products and other goods. Some countries have adopted reforestation as a way to keep the supply of these resources ongoing, and to limit the environmental impact that harvesting wood has.


How Reforestation Can Help?


Reforestation is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to limit global warming. Replacing trees that were decimated by fires or human impact will revitalize the planet and reduce the negative effect that burning fossil fuels will have.

As trees grow and thrive, they use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into energy. They also use the carbon in the atmosphere as a source of food, allowing less of our carbon byproducts to make it into the atmosphere and warm the planet.

Once the trees grow, they provide a canopy for the surrounding area, so sunlight doesn’t reach the ground. The soil stays cooler and moister, which allows more plants to grow through the same process.

Additionally, reforestation can be one of the cheapest ways to battle climate change. In theory, we just need to plant some trees in an area, wait for them to grow and restore the natural habitat that was destroyed.

Of course, reforestation isn’t as easy as that - which we’ll touch on below - but the idea remains a simple one. We still need to limit our fossil fuel output as a species, but reforestation can limit our waste naturally. Businesses and individuals don’t need to make as many concessions if the planet’s lungs are in full, working order.


Not As Simple As It Sounds


The inherent idea behind reforestation seems like a simple one to understand. More trees mean more cover for the soil, improved ecosystems for wildlife, and an overall decrease in global temperatures.

Unfortunately, the above statement isn’t always true. Reforestation is useful and important, but it isn’t as simple as planting more trees. Trees aren’t created equal, and planting a certain kind of tree in an area that was previously home others can actually have the opposite effect in the long run.

The evidence for this is particularly evident in Europe. Use of fossil fuels slowed the deforestation in the continent, allowing new trees to take root and grow. Unfortunately, these trees were not the same as the ones they were replacing.

The trees that grew were confiners like spruce and pine trees. These trees are darker as a whole, and thus absorb more sunlight than the trees that naturally grew in this climate. They are also more useful from an economic standpoint. These trees grow faster, which means they’re easier to harvest for paper and wood products than the trees that naturally resided before they were planted.

As you can tell, these reforestation efforts were more in the name of profits and practicality rather than environmental consciousness. As a result, they led to more global warming than the area would have seen had they not been planted.

In fact, some environmentalists in the area are campaigning to remove these trees and plant new ones in their place. It’s not every day that you will see these groups advocating for fewer trees, but they know the effects that the wrong trees will have on the local and global climate.

Researchers in the area are cautioning other governments that plan on combating global warming through reforestation. More trees do not automatically improve the environment. They have to be the right kind of trees, or we could end up making the problem even worse.


Biodiversity


Biodiversity is an essential component of reforestation. As we said, reforestation isn’t as simple as planting more trees. The trees have to be the right kind, and you can’t plant a single species of tree in an area and call it a day.

photo of different kinds of animals

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Forests will naturally have a lot of biodiversity - both in plants and in animals. One of the tasks that reforestation advocates need to tackle is planting the right number of different trees in an area.

Without biodiversity, we can end up running into the problem of having an artificial forest look more like a farm. These new trees will limit the amount of biodiversity in an area and stifle the growth of new species - further limiting the wildlife capabilities.

Those who study and implement reforestation need to be careful and cautious with the kind of trees they plant. They need to keep biodiversity in mind as well as the historical climate of the area to make sure they aren’t making the problem worse than it already is.


Moving Forward


Thankfully, reforestation is taking hold in many places around the world. Governments and activities are coming together to plant more trees in areas that have been decimated by deforestation in the past. Researchers are also making careful considerations about the natural environment to make sure that the right kind of trees are being planted as well.

Since reforestation can be so effective, it’s one of the best and cheapest ways we can help this planet. It’s clear that something has to give if we want to continue to live on this planet. Reforestation is one of the ways we can help the planet flourish and limit the negative impact our development and presence has.

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