Authors: Lindsay Lights Forintos and Candra Burns
A child of the city says they are tired of grey! They want to see green!! What is green and renewable? A tree, to be exact. This child’s dream is to lay under a full tree canopy and look up at the leaves rustling in the wind. Children are different from adults, they excitedly choose a spot right outside their bedroom window! The child starts getting more excited visualizing the tree…wait… “I do not even know where I could get a tree!” remembered the child. “I want to plant a tree and the place I was going to plant is where our garbage bin goes!” The child realized they needed to learn a bit about tree planting.
We should zoom out because it is a bigger picture than just planting a tree.
But really, why do you care? Well, trees sustain life! Without forests full of trees, life would not exist. Forests are surprisingly huge regulators of our water and carbon. Do you remember the water cycle of our younger education? Water goes from the ground, into the air, clouds, then back to the ground as rain! Forests regulate the air we breathe. The carbon cycle is essential to the Earth. Also known as carbon sequestration, trees make their own food through the process of photosynthesis, and then carbon is stored in the leaves by 1%, trunks and branches by 40% carbon, and tree roots by 14% of carbon, soil and organic matter by 45%. During this process, large woody debris, root and cell respiration and death cause carbon to be released back into the atmosphere. Then, sustainable forest harvest makes the frames and sides of our homes, boards for buildings, wooden signs, fence posts, and more. We call this list of things the forest provides also known as ecosystem services and the entire supply chain makes this possible.
These ecosystem services mean so much to Earth, and we have committed to planting one trillion trees. Tree planting has grown from a local priority to a national focus and global effort! Stars and YouTubers have come together in massive action with the #teamtrees campaign. The stars raised 20 million dollars!
Everyone is enabled to plant a tree. But, like the beginning of our story, it takes more than a wish. Instead of a wish, it needs to be a conscious choice. The choice must be to fund those involved in professions to carry out the entire circular process from seedling to forest. The USA is more fragmented than ever, contributing to issues like climate change and wildlife habitat loss. Keeping habitat and improving it, including our forests, is a solution. Forests and products significantly and diversely contribute to people’s everyday lives. As populations change and adapt over time, so do forests. As stated on the #forestproud Reconnecting People and Forests webpage “As #forestproud community members, it’s our responsibility to be part of the solution to sustain and improve the health of our environment. When reconnecting people and forests, a stronger relationship is made between essential forest benefits and products and those that use them everyday.”
Tree planting involves site prep, species selection, growing tree seedlings, planting, watering within the first year or more, etc. It is not a short-term concept. There are many logistics to tree planting and keeping the tree alive. Past fundraising has been limited and not always thoroughly thought through. It has been a learning opportunity. Attention must expand from just putting a tree seedling in the ground to the effort necessary to save the planet with trees in infrastructure and planning.
Support efforts that look at the entire cycle. Take action. Everyone can be involved in tree planting. There are local trees being planted for this mission in your area. You can donate to organizations. Longstanding organizations plant trees and plan for the entire tree life cycle, such as Michigan ReLeaf has been doing for 34 years. Even the largest organizations are learning to expand their idea of tree planting to fully encompassing. Known organization, One Tree Planted has raised tens of millions toward planting trees and has grown to one of the most prominent tree planting funding organizations globally. In past projects, they had only funded acquiring tree seedlings. Admirably, they are growing and expanding to fund the entire tree planting cycles we’ve mentioned. This giant organization is looking to fund tree planting efforts across the country. As you’re reading, know there is a place for you to contribute in a way that fits you!
The tree planting cycle and effort also requires skill, labor, and expertise from a multifaceted approach of many other experts in the community. Potential career pursuits could be as a forester, engineer, GIS specialists, arborists, ecologists, geologists, volunteers, wildland firefighters, students, and more. Talking Forests is a communications and marketing agency in the forest sector, a new path has been forged for you. Anyone can create their own path in the forest sector.
As Talking Forests, we stand to be a voice for these trees and share it widely. Trees do beautiful work in their forest. We take that message to where the people are, online. Our media consulting cares for the trees by giving others a voice to talk openly about it. Our clients align with the same care for the trees. The growing community of Talking Forests helps us be on point for websites, branding, social media platforms, speaking, podcasting, and content spread far and wide.
An article called Mass tree planting: how to do it right came out that helps us understand the bigger picture. “A common problem, though, is that restoration projects have limited success in reaching their desired outcomes. For example, the trees planted often do not survive because they have been poorly chosen.” And “The current situation is that non-native tree species end up being planted.” From the planning to how the seedlings will look, to after being planted to the succession of the tree stand, and growing maturity.
Things people need to think about for the long-term planting of trees are:
Picking Trees that Survive the Planting: Regeneration and restoration is essential. Choosing the trees based on climate, location, quality of the soil, and South or North facing slopes is a research science-based process that guarantees the survival of your tree seedlings.
Determine your tree species and tree planting density best for the list above because site
preparation is critical to planting trees efficiently.
Planting Trees at the Right Time and Location:
Once you have the suitable tree species for the climate and location, you need to plant trees when it is not flooding and a time after a fire that is optimal for species regeneration. It would help if you also considered the difference between obligate, upland, hot/cold, wet/dry locations to match the tree species with that location variable.
Surrounding vegetation is also essential to consider because we want some understory (the plants under the trees). We want diversity in some tree stands as well. Not only in vegetation, but also in wildlife. Consider this when you are working on the planning of your tree stands.
The trees are planted, what do we do now?
Tending to the Trees that Have Been Planted: Depending on the species you planted, you
need to know the site, soil, and water quality. Deer and Elk browsing in some regions are very
hard to work around and some trees need protection against that, so we cover the trees with tubes to get them to have a greater survival chance. For water areas, there will be a buffer (trees that you cannot cut down) placed to preserve the aquatic species and prevent soil erosion on the banks of the water source.
Tree Planting Density: Something that can happen is that the tree planting density is too many Trees per Acre (TPA) and you will need to come in and thin the tree to have the best chance of growing trees. Tree planting density changes per region and is based on tree species and needs during the planning sessions. Density is important because some tree stands are planted with many trees so that they will grow up straight, but some tree stands are underplanted and the trees grow too thick. Trees grow upward to compete for light.
Trees Growing to Maturity: The growth rate of trees depends on so many factors. The first 15 years of a seedling’s life is critical for growth. Trees take time to grow and you have to think of this succession rate while picking out a species to plant. Conditions such as weather like wind and rain can affect the growth rate of your trees. The tree seedlings that you picked out earlier aren’t going to all survive and we make up for this by going through the scientific and visual process to grow optimal trees for different goals. Going back into this tree stand that you planted and working to thin trees out will help the trees grow better and host a variety of wildlife species.
When planning forest futures, the decisions we make today have a far-reaching impact and most people do not see the fruits of their labor until 50- years later when the tree stand is mature. So you must plant trees to manage them for the long-term because the seedlings won’t survive, literally.
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