Forests across the planet are disappearing at a frightening rate.1 At the same time, the rate that we pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere increases each year.2 Forest ecology and management and management may help mitigate some of these issues.
Since forests absorb and store carbon dioxide, they are essential to the health of our planet. Forest ecology and forest management is about applying our knowledge to the management and conservation of plantations and natural forests. This is now more vital than ever before.3
A growing number of people around the world recognise the importance of forests.4 That means we need a better understanding of natural ecosystems to help them grow.
An understanding of this vital science has changed in many ways over the past decades. For example, scientists now accept that ‘disturbances’ to forests, such as fires or insect infestations, can be important for their long term health.
In 1996, the US Forest Service said, “Many attempts to suppress disturbance are now proving deleterious to the long-term healthy functioning of forest ecosystems”. In other words, our understanding of forestry itself has changed over the years.5
Forest ecology programmes that work
Over the last 30 years, China has undertaken perhaps the largest forest ecology programme in the world. After decades of forest loss to agriculture, the country reversed trends from 1990. Since then, it has officially created new forest land of nearly 79 million hectares – three times the size of the UK.6
Due to the scale and success of China’s forest ecology programme, there has been interest in what other countries could learn from it.7 China’s 40-year, billion tree project is a lesson for the world, Bloomberg News also reported in 2020.8
Researchers have also learnt much about how tree planting affects water levels, thanks to lessons from China.9 Examples from China, the US, Russia and others in increasing tree cover have been a boon for forest ecology studies. One meta-study found that allowing forests to regenerate naturally was much better than doing so actively. Future governments should think more about forest ecology and ensure the correct type of forest restoration is pursued depending on the conditions, it said.10
What can we do to lobby for more forest ecology programmes?
The most important thing we can do for forest ecology is to lobby for more land to be set aside for trees and natural forests and plant our own trees. Creating that space would benefit our communities. In addition, it would increase the demand for forest ecology itself.11 We could also lobby our lawmakers directly or contribute towards an organisation that does this, such as WWF or Rainforest Alliance.
The study of forest ecology is continuing to change and develop over time. That makes it even more relevant and necessary for protecting our environment and our future.
- WWF (2010). Deforestation and Forest Degradation | Threats | WWF. [online] World Wildlife Fund. Available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation.
- Lindsey, R. (2020). Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide | NOAA Climate.gov. [online] Climate.gov. Available at: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide.
- Forest Ecology and Management. (n.d.). [online] www.journals.elsevier.com. Available at: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/forest-ecology-and-management.
- Tyson, A. and Kennedy, B. (2020). Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on Climate. [online] Pew Research Center Science & Society. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2020/06/23/two-thirds-of-americans-think-government-should-do-more-on-climate/.
- Rogers, P. (1996). United States Department of Agriculture Disturbance Ecology and Forest Management: a Review of the Literature. [online] . Available at: https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_int/int_gtr336.pdf.
- Dunne, D. (2018). Mapped: Where “afforestation” is taking place around the world | Carbon Brief. [online] Carbon Brief. Available at: https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-where-afforestation-is-taking-place-around-the-world.
- Chokkalingam, U., Zaizhi, Z., Chunfeng, W. and Toma, T. (2006). Lessons from the Past Learning lessons from China’s forest rehabilitation efforts National level review and special focus on Guangdong Province. [online] . Available at: https://www.cifor.org/publications/pdf_files/Books/Bchokkalingam0603.pdf [Accessed 26 May 2021].
- Bloomberg.com. (2020). China’s 40-Year, Billion-Tree Project Is a Lesson for the World. [online] 14 Sep. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-14/china-s-40-year-billion-tree-project-is-a-lesson-for-the-world.
- Schwärzel, K. (2019). China’s fight against desertification should not be done at the cost of water security. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/chinas-fight-against-desertification-should-not-be-done-at-the-cost-of-water-security-83678.
- Crouzeilles, R., Ferreira, M.S., Chazdon, R.L., Lindenmayer, D.B., Sansevero, J.B.B., Monteiro, L., Iribarrem, A., Latawiec, A.E. and Strassburg, B.B.N. (2017). Ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests. Science Advances, [online] 3(11), p.e1701345. Available at: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/11/e1701345.full [Accessed 7 Mar. 2019].
- Emine Saner (2019). Grow your own forest: how to plant trees to help save the planet. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/04/grow-your-own-forest-how-to-plant-trees-to-help-save-the-planet.