Some cities give out free saplings to residents, in hopes of increasing metropolitan tree density. On Earth Day, greenhouses share seedlings with schoolkids, encouraging them to nurture the little sprouts. With programs such as these, individual citizens make our planet greener—one tree at a time.
Occasionally, though, a sapling here and there won’t cut it. After all, there are huge swaths of land that need trees, and lots of them. That’s when reforestation really counts.
At its heart, reforestation means to regrow a forest. It can happen naturally, as when oak and beech seeds sprout in a barren field. Left undisturbed, in just a few decades, the seedlings, shrubs, and undergrowth create a woodland.
Other times, humans lend a hand, carefully considering factors such as what species of tree—often native, but not always—suits the area. Planters also look at season, water availability, elevation, and amount of sun. Questions about the future crop up too, namely: will the trees survive?
If you took a group of tree-planting citizens or schoolkids and asked them to plan a reforestation program, they might come up with a few of the strategies used around the world. Certain projects plant species in stages, focusing first on those that will thrive quickly and block weeds. Other programs cover a site in little islands of seedlings, which will foster natural reforestation for the whole area. Some plans are more controversial: “plantations” are single-species forests, which are easy to plant but may squash biodiversity and wildlife presence.
Reforestation and individual tree-planting efforts both matter. Trees store carbon, clean our water, and create healthy ecosystems—for all to enjoy.