Strategies to Combat Climate Change: Reforestation
Reforestation includes the process of planting (or otherwise regenerating) and establishing a desired forest community on a given site. An important part of reforestation is the selection of an appropriate tree species or forest community to manage. Common reforestation techniques include both natural and artificial methods. Natural regeneration methods include root suckering, stump sprouting or natural seeding. Artificial regeneration methods include aerial and ground seeding, machine planting and hand planting.
Historically, one of the most important challenges and responsibilities of the USDA Forest Service has been to establish forests on lands that are unstocked as the result of natural catastrophes, excessive cutting, fire, insects or farming practices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Reforestation programs have been integral to the management of national forest resources since the Agency’s inception. The Organic Administration Act of 1897 explicitly provided for the establishment of national forests to improve and protect forests to secure favorable conditions of water flows and to furnish a continuous supply of timber. The Act provides for reforestation work in support of these aims.
Planting new trees can help to reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane significantly contribute to climate change. Forest are an effective natural carbon sink, soaking up much of the carbon emitted from burning fossil fuels. Reversing global deforestation could be a key element of an effective mitigation strategy to fight global warming.
Reforestation is often expensive. This is particularly true for degraded areas where current methods are simply too expensive for rehabilitation to be carried out. Rehabilitation of sites that are difficult to reach and steep areas can be especially costly. Reforestation can also be unattractive because of the long growth periods required before any harvesting and financial return is possible. This means high returns are needed when harvesting does take place to overcome the costs that have accrued over these periods.