Afforestation, Deforestation & Reforestation

In this post we’re going to spend some more time looking at trees and specifically how we (humans) have impacted – and continue to impact – the global tree population (and yes I have a number for this!).

Before we go any further there are some terms to familiarise ourselves with;

Forestry is the science and craft of creating, managing, using, conserving and repairing forests, woodlands, and associated resources for human and environmental benefits (Wikipedia)

Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no previous tree cover (Wikipedia)

Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is then converted to a non-forest use (Wikipedia)

Reforestation (occasionally, Reafforestation) is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands (forestation) that have been depleted, usually through deforestation (Wikipedia)

Thank you Wikipedia! When talking about trees and climate change, it’s useful to understand the difference between the terms above, particularly given that the meaning is hugely different even though the difference in spelling is Re vs. De.

Basically ‘Af’ & ‘Re’ are good and ‘De’ is very bad 🙂

If you’ve already ready my previous post or watched our video on trees, you’ll know that trees play a critical role in combating climate change. For those of you who haven’t, this is because trees sequester carbon. Which is a scientific way of saying that they absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lock it up inside themselves.

The rise in global temperatures that is causing climate change is due to an excess of emissions (carbon but also methane, nitrogen and others – collectively greenhouse gases or GHG) being trapped inside the atmosphere.

By sequestering carbon dioxide, trees act as a natural defense against climate change and global warming. So the more trees there are the better. And according to Thomas Crowther, there are 3 TRILLION(!) trees in the world today.

So no problem right? 3 trillion is a huge number, we’ve got all the trees we need!

Well unfortunately whilst that is a big number we’re also cutting trees down at a rate of 15 billion per year. I’m 46 years young, so in my lifetime we’ve lost 690 billion trees.

Much of this has been the result of active deforestation where the land is needed for agriculture, or where the trees provide an income for the local communities, e.g. logging..

In 2019, clearing rainforest for agriculture was occurring at a rate of 30 football pitches a minute.

Deforestation damages the environment in multiple ways by;

  • reducing the number of trees that can absorb carbon dioxide
  • releasing carbon stocks back into the atmosphere
  • destroying the habitats that support many species

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there has been a concerted effort globally to increase Afforestation and Reforestation. There are some incredible examples;

  • In Korea, 11 billion trees have been planted over the last 50 years (even in the demilitarised zone!)
  • In China, a wall of trees 2,800 miles long has been planted to prevent further expansion of the Gobi Desert
  • In the US, the Appalachian Region Reforestation Initiative has planted 87m trees in the last 15 years.

But we need to do a lot more. What can you do to help increase afforestation and reforestation and decrease deforestation?

  1. Think about what food you are buying and where it comes from. Consider eating less meat and looking for products that are RSPO-certified.
  2. Fund projects that protect existing rainforests and woodland from deforestation, like rainforest conservation project in Cambodia.
  3. Plant trees! It’s up to you how many but remember that it takes about 150 trees to absorb the annual carbon footprint of one person. Terra Neutra supports a reforestation project in Madagascar and you can plant trees with us via the button below