Forests cover nearly one-third of the Earth’s land area and are home to 80% of the plant and animal species that live on land. Yet due to deforestation, forest fires, and logging nearly 10 million hectares are lost each year. With these beautiful ecosystems beginning to dwindle, reforestation can help to bring back life to areas that were once vibrant forestland.
Many organizations have taken up the task of helping to restore forests around the world, like One Tree Planted, who planted 23 million trees globally in the past year. To do our part, in 2021 we successfully planted 227,742 trees around the United States in partnership with One Tree Planted.
Learn more about reforestation and the benefits of these projects below.
What is reforestation?
Put simply, reforestation is the process of replanting trees in areas that have lost forest cover due to either man-made or natural disturbances. When wildfires, climate change, insects, disease, and logging or other clearing practices damage and destroy forests, reforestation is the process by which they’re restored.
Reforestation involves more than simply planting trees. Tree planting organizations, like One Tree Planted, first find viable planting locations and native trees that can be planted there. Then, seedlings will be cultivated and planted, and environmental staff will typically carry out a long-term plan to ensure they grow into strong adult trees.
Learn more about reforestation from our partners at One Tree Planted.
Forests serve many essential purposes: They create the oxygen we need to breathe. They provide us with beautiful places to visit. They support thousands of plant and animal species. Below are five reasons it’s important to conserve and protect forests.
Forests are home to an incredible array of species: 60,000 different types of trees, plus 75% of birds, 80% of amphibians, and nearly 70% of mammals can be found in forests. This biodiversity makes forests stronger and more resilient, allowing them to better withstand disease and insect infestations and regenerate more quickly after a disaster. The replanting of trees encourages the return of wildlife and, thus, biodiversity. Reforestation can also be used to plant rare or endangered trees, helping them make a comeback.
Soil erosion reduction
Soil erosion is caused by strong winds, hard rains, and flowing water. In some cases, it’s a natural process, but when it occurs too quickly, it can lead to flooding, increased pollution, and sedimentation of rivers. Trees can protect from erosion and flooding by absorbing and redistributing this water. A single evergreen can intercept up to 15,000 liters of water a year.
Soil doesn’t just provide a place for trees to take root. It actually stores and filters water, helping improve the water quality of nearby rivers and lakes. Trees create healthy soil by keeping it from becoming compacted. Compacted soil doesn’t filter or store water as well as loose, aerated soil. Forests also absorb polluting chemicals that may otherwise make their way into the water supply.
One of the most important functions of forests is to absorb carbon dioxide and create oxygen. The larger the forest, the more carbon dioxide is being removed from the atmosphere. In reforestation, this is called carbon sequestration. It's estimated that a tree can absorb an average of 22lbs of carbon a year for the first 20 years of its life.
Reforestation benefits communities as well. During the planting process, jobs are created to prepare the land, plant the trees, and monitor the growing process. When the forests reach maturity, they could be used for future education, tourism, or recreation. One study found that every $1 million invested in reforestation creates 17 jobs for the local economy — a rate similar to other conservation projects and higher than industries like coal and gas.
Reforestation projects around the world
As individuals and countries realize the benefits of reforestation, efforts are picking up around the world. From the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil to the rivers of India, governments are committing to reforestation with a new conviction — and there are plenty of examples of reforestation projects that have already been completed.
Southwest Western Australia
Southwest Western Australia is incredibly biodiverse. More than 50% of its plant species are endemic, meaning they don’t live anywhere else on Earth. It’s home to some truly impressive plant species that have existed since prehistoric times and are uniquely adapted to arid climates and infertile soil. Yet large-scale industrial agriculture cleared much of the land, creating delicate, fragmented ecosystems where resilient plant life once thrived. Alongside local planting partners, One Tree Planted planted 1 million native trees and shrubs in the area, restoring 357 acres of land and proving the strong effects of reforestation on habitat and biodiversity.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 1,856 acres of wetlands and lowlands in northwestern Oregon. The sanctuary provides a vital habitat for birds, salmon, and other fish, which in turn are an important part of the food chain for hundreds of animals. The environment had degraded and no longer supported the food sources that these animals needed to thrive. One Tree Planted supported a reforestation effort that planted 100,000 native trees and shrubs in the refuge, bringing back migratory birds, providing wildlife viewing opportunities, and supplying food sources for local animals.
Up until a major forest fire in 1987, logging was the main source of income in Daxing’anling Prefecture, China. But the fire destroyed 80% of the forest, eliminating many jobs and leaving the community without the funds to restore it. It wasn’t until 2010 that the local government began reforestation efforts, planting 39,514 hectares of forest between 2010 and 2014. The project sequestered 1.5 million tons of carbon during those years and created 5,460 jobs, showing the true benefits of reforestation.
Reforestation benefits the Earth and all of its inhabitants. These projects are a testament to the resiliency of forests and of humanity — and give us hope for the future.