The magic pizza pie of climate change solutions has several big fat slices marked “trees”. People have noticed, which is why we have trillion tree campaigns, billion tree campaigns and hundreds more. Yet such well-intentioned efforts can do a lot of damage if not informed by science (just look at the disasters of Europe’s biofuels and biomass policies). Not every tree – or forest – is created equal. That’s why this review of how best to deploy the tree solution is so useful. The authors have distilled surveys and papers into 10 easy rules for corporations, policymakers, communities, farmers and ranchers to follow.
~Patrick Worms – Senior Policy Advisor for World Agroforestry Centre
1) Protect existing forests first. They draw down more carbon, protect more biodiversity, and are more resilient than any other form of forest. And resilience matters: that carbon is more safely stored.
2) Put locals at the heart of tree-planting projects. They have more to gain than anyone else. And they live there – they can act as caregivers and custodians over the long lifetimes of trees.
3) Maximize biodiversity recovery. That lets you meet many multiple goals that reinforce each other (for example, more biodiverse forests draw down more carbon and are more resilient to drought).
4) Select the right places for restoration. Don’t plant trees in grasslands or wetlands. Plant trees where they used to live, which means in degraded lands, in agricultural lands (agroforestry), and in many rangelands (silvopastures).
5) Use natural regeneration wherever possible: it’s a lot cheaper. And the resulting forest is by definition adapted to local circumstances, more biodiverse and more resilient.
6) Select species to maximise biodiversity. Avoid invasives. Include rare species. By all means put in economically useful trees, but mix them up.
7) Use resilient plant material, adapted to local biophysical contexts, and make sure there’s genetic variability. Again, that makes your forest more resilient.
8) Plan ahead. Work with local communities to develop seed supplies and seedling care.
9) Learn by doing. Combine scientific and local knowledge. Use an adaptive management approach.
10) Make it pay! Everyone’s got to benefit, including the poorest, or watch your seedlings die and your trees cut illegally.