One tree at a time: putting forests back together

Written by Ana PalmaPhD Candidate, James Cook University

for the National Science Communication Challenge

Example of recovering forests and abandoned pastures in tropical Australia (Image: Ana Palma)

Example of recovering forests and abandoned pastures in tropical Australia (Image: Ana Palma)

Everything has a beginning, forests start with a tree.

A single tree is beautiful, a hundred thousand trees are even better, and when we have millions of trees we have a forest.

Trees are awesome! They clean the air, produce fruits and nuts, protect rivers and water sources, provide shade, and are the perfect example of "zero waste"; all the things a tree produces serve a purpose.

They lose leaves, but those are food for mushrooms and other fungus that later on, turn those leaves back into soil that feeds the tree again!

Forests are amazing places; they have lots of different trees, fruits, and animals. Each tree provides food and shelter for diverse animals, fungus and even other plants. So when we lose a forest, we lose lots of things.

If each of us plants a tree, putting forests back together should be an achievable challenge

We are still losing forests around the world, but at the same time we are trying to put forests back by planting trees and hopefully bringing forests back.

Forests around the world are being transformed to make room for crops and roads.

These changes create new pressures for plants and animals that lose their homes (the forest) and we lose all the benefits a forest brings: trees, clean air, fruits, medicine, and lots of different animals.

Planting trees in abandoned pastures or regrowing forests is a good first step to bring back all the benefits of forests

While some forests are being cleared for new land, some pastures and agricultural fields are abandoned.

This happens because some crops are no longer profitable, or because soils have lost their nutrients.

After some time, forests start regrowing in these abadonded lands, but they usually do not have as many trees and animals as the original forests did.

To help these regrowing forests gain more trees and animals, our research has shown that planting the same kind of trees the original forest had can help speed up the process of recovery.

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