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Tree planting is booming and can be amazing to fight Climate change, restore biodiversity, and provide cleaner air. However, when trees are not planted correctly, they can harm the environment even more than many may think and eventually lead to the extinction of certain species.
More companies than ever are offering environmentally sound incentives to their customers for buying their products. You’ve probably seen one tree planted for every T-shirt purchased, for every bottle of wine, or every bag of coffee beans. Whether it’s because they care about the environment or because they want it to seem like they are an eco-friendly company, many are not following through to plant the trees in a way that helps the environment.
These companies usually team up with nonprofit organizations and governments to plant these trees, and last year, billions of trees were planted thanks to businesses’ incentives. There’s no doubt that trees absorb the planet-warming gas, carbon dioxide, from the air and improve the air for communities. However, when these tree planters don’t do the necessary research before planting, it can often make the very problems they were meant to solve, even worse.
“You’re creating basically a sterile landscape,” Paul Smith, who runs a group that works towards preventing tree extinction, told The New York Times. “If people want to plant trees, let’s also make it a positive for biodiversity.”
It has never been more critical to address the climate crisis as extinction rates of animals and plants are skyrocketing. Ecosystems cannot thrive without animals or plants, and many may brush this off, thinking that since they don’t see the Amazon forest destruction every day, this won’t impact their lives. However, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are vital for our food and water supply and the planet’s overall health.
Countries and companies are planting trees across large areas but often nonnative species to that particular environment. The trees often store little oxygen and provide no Support to surrounding ecosystems that once thrived in these areas. When it comes to planting trees, experts say one should plant the right tree in the right place for the right reason.
In theory, this is a great rule to follow; however, like most things, people often disagree with what “right” means for these things. Most people planting trees also have different motives. Some people plant trees intending to capture carbon, while others may be growing them to heal and provide nutrients to the soil. Many times, trees that help biodiversity do not offer good carbon storage.
Deforestation is a horrible problem, and we have already over-exploited so many ecosystems past the point of return. Planting trees is a good place to start, but we also need to realize that now, there is not enough actual land on Earth to plant enough trees to combat Climate change. If planting trees was paired with a massive cut in fossil fuel usage and a switch to renewable energy, this could be possible.
“I fear that many corporations and governments are seeing this as an easy way out,” said Robin Chazdon, a professor of tropical forest restoration at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, told The New York Times. “They don’t necessarily have to work as hard to reduce their emissions because they can just say, ‘Oh, we’re offsetting that by planting trees.”
All trees store carbon, but how much and their other benefits vary depending on the species and where the tree is planted. For example, eucalyptus, native to Australia and a few other islands, grows very fast and straight and is very useful for lumber products. Its leaves feed koalas. However, in Africa and South America, when these trees are planted, they provide much less value to wildlife. They also take a lot of water to grow and worsen wildfires.
Our planet has almost 60,000 tree species, and at least one-third of them are in danger of extinction. This is primarily because of the land we have ruined from agriculture and animal grazing. Globally, only a tiny percentage of the thousands of tree species are planted. We need to think before we plant for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and location. Sign this petition to save the trees!
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