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What Is Afforestation?

Afforestation refers to the planting of trees to create a forest.
There is a 2,800 mile long tree-planting effort in China to combat the spread of sands from the Gobi Desert.
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  • Written By: H.R. Childress
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2014
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Afforestation is the planting of trees to create a forest on non-forest land. It is different from reforestation, which is replanting trees where a forest has been depleted. The main purposes for implementing afforestation are commercial forestry and environmental restoration or preservation.

When afforestation is used for commercial purposes, it usually involves planting and harvesting of trees as agricultural crops. Areas where this is done are known as plantation forests. Harvesting trees from plantation forests helps to reduce deforestation in natural forests. On the other hand, there may be environmental consequences if this tree-farming is done incorrectly. The fast-growing trees often chosen for plantation forests consume large amounts of water and may deplete the area's water resources. Some types of trees also change the physical or chemical properties of the soil, which can damage indigenous species. Thus, sustainable commercial afforestation must take environmental factors into account to avoid damaging the local ecosystem.

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Sustainable afforestation is also vital when it is implemented for environmental purposes. The appropriate types and amounts of trees to be planted vary depending on the environment, the climate, and the purpose of creating forested areas. Major environmental purposes include soil conservation and water quality improvement. For example, trees can be used to prevent soil erosion and reduce polluted runoff into nearby bodies of water. Trees may also be planted to create windbreaks. During the Dust Bowl in the United States' Great Plains area, for instance, the planting of long rows of native trees was encouraged in order to protect crops from the wind and reduce the loss of topsoil.

Afforestation is sometimes considered as a method for stopping or slowing desertification. Desertification is the deterioration of land in arid climates due to loss of vegetation and soil moisture. If done correctly, creating forestland in areas in danger of desertification can slow erosion and reduce its spread. There are efforts in the Gobi Desert in China and the Sahara in Africa to use afforestation to prevent the desert from claiming more land area.

In China, at least 3,600 square kilometers of land is taken over by sands from the Gobi Desert every year. The Green Wall is a massive, approximately 2,800 mile long tree-planting effort to prevent this. A similar Great Green Wall stretching from Senegal to Djibouti is proposed to help stop the spread of the Sahara. Critics of both say, however, that central planning would not be as effective as supporting local sustainable farming methods, since such projects require taking widely varying local conditions into consideration.

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orangey03
Post 4

Afforestation can be useful on private land as well. My aunt lived within the city limits on a large plot of land that was quickly eroding off into a valley behind her property. She decided to plant one hundred trees along the area to keep her land from shrinking any further.

She had always loved the foliage of red maple trees in the fall, so she chose these for her personal afforestation project. Since they grow quickly, they were an ideal solution.

They can get about sixty feet tall, so their roots have to run deep. That is a good thing when you need them to hang onto your soil for you.

fify
Post 3

There is a company which harvests trees not too far away from where I live. They do afforestation and when the trees grow, harvest them and do it all over again.

I think it's great because they are growing and using their own trees rather than hundreds of years old trees that are found in our state naturally.

There is no way that we are going to stop needing lumber and wood. Considering how much paper we consume here in the U.S., we're always going to need to harvest trees. Afforestation is a great and conscious way to do that.

bear78
Post 2

@turquoise-- I don't agree with you because afforestation and reforestation are actually not that easy to tell apart.

The reason that we do any forestation at all is because that piece of land is at present cannot grow and maintain trees. It might be because the trees have been cut down or because the soil has eroded to the point that it cannot grow plants any longer.

Even though in the past, these places might have looked very different, today they are basically in the same or similar condition. So when you think about that, you will see that afforestation and reforestation are really not that different.

turquoise
Post 1

I don't know if afforestation is as good as reforestation or protecting the natural forests that remain. Both afforestation and reforestation involves planting trees, but it seems to me that afforestation is more difficult to manage and sustain.

For example, the article mentioned afforestation efforts in desert lands. This is not an easy thing to do because the land there is naturally not suited for tree growth. If the soil had been right and there was enough rainfall, trees would have grown there naturally.

I feel that afforestation is riskier and more costly than reforestation. With reforestation, at least we know that the soil is suitable and with some additional support, the previous trees and forests can be replaced.

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