5 facts to check before beginning a reforestation project

June 14, 2023

Are you about to call on a company to help you with your reforestation project? Would you like to restore land and plant trees? This article is for you.

Before selecting your reforestation provider, it's essential to ensure that they meet these five conditions to ensure the success of forest ecosystem restoration and promote the sustainability, resilience and impact of restored forests. It is not enough to focus solely on tree survival rates...

For your information, these five criteria are taken from the "Ten Golden Rules for Forest Restoration" defined by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and applied by MORFO.

1. Ensure that the species planted will contribute to biodiversity

In the face of impending climate catastrophe, the need to repopulate the trillions of trees our planet has lost over the centuries is becoming ever more pressing. But today, 45% of reforestation projects worldwide are monocultures, which in some cases create additional problems for the environment. So the main aim is not just to plant trees, but to encourage biodiversity. This means choosing a variety of adapted native species and encouraging the reconstitution of the entire local ecosystem, including flora and fauna.

The more diverse the tree and plant species, the higher the success rate, and the greater the forest's capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Indeed, a recent study demonstrates for the first time that tree diversity can significantly improve carbon sequestration in natural forests. According to the study, increasing species regularity raises soil carbon and nitrogen levels by 30% and 42% respectively. In addition, improving functional diversity, which encompasses a range of physical characteristics within the forest, leads to a 32% and 50% increase in soil carbon and nitrogen levels respectively. Biodiverse forests also have superior erosion control capabilities, according to a study conducted on Hainan Island and published in September 2023, in addition to helping to limit the spread of disease.

So, what can you do to encourage forest diversity? There are several measures to consider. Firstly, you need to invest more in diversified planting methods, encouraging a variety of species and physical characteristics in forests. It is essential that your reforestation provider respects the implementation of rules and regulations to enforce sustainable practices. It's also important that your provider facilitates knowledge-sharing between reforestation stakeholders, in order to exchange results and benefit from best practices. Finally, the use of intelligent reforestation solutions, such as ecological restoration techniques and innovative technologies, can help maximize the benefits of forest diversity. By combining these actions, you can better exploit the environmental, economic and social benefits offered by forest tree diversity.


2. Knowledge of the local ecosystem

Biodiversity doesn't mean planting just any species. It's important to ensure that the species planted are local and non-invasive. This is why it's crucial that the reforestation contractor has in-depth knowledge of the local ecosystem and a broad catalog of species to match your terrain.

A lack of local species in a reforestation project may be caused by a lack of seed, or the fact that seed is inaccessible. In such cases, the service provider needs to have an extensive local network to guarantee access to the right seeds in the right quantities.

In order to broaden their knowledge of microbiology, agronomy, botany and forestry, proper seed selection must be the fruit of extensive R&D work, which may be carried out in partnership with laboratories or universities.


3. Check that an accurate soil analysis is carried out before planting.

Before you start planting, it's crucial that your reforestation contractor carries out soil analyses, the aim being to increase the project's success rate. These analyses can be carried out both in the field, using samples, and from aerial data, via satellite and drone.

These allow us to identify the characteristics of the biome and soil, such as altitude, average temperature, annual precipitation, aridity index, soil PH (or acidity), erosion, number of plant species already present, and so on. This will help define a planting plan, and thus determine what to plant, where to plant it and how to plant it.

A striking example of a study, carried out by ecologists Louis König and Catarina Jakovac of Wageningen University and Research Centre, highlighting the importance of taking into account the specific characteristics of the soil and local environment when reforesting. The researchers point out that trees have difficulty growing on residue heaps where the soil layers are disturbed and toxic. However, seedlings planted in extraction pits and close to remaining forests showed better growth performance.

4. Ensure that project follow-up is maintained, even after planting.

The long-term management of the forest following planting is a crucial subject, and is essential in determining the signs of success or failure of the project. Regular monitoring by the contractor after planting is essential to assess the success of the project and detect any potential problems. Corrective action can be taken by the reforestation contractor in the event of signs of unproductivity, such as a second or third planting.

Ideally, such monitoring should be carried out:

  • For at least 5 years, so that a growth assessment can be carried out at the end of these 5 years. However, follow-up would be ideal if carried out indefinitely.
  • On a recurring basis. This may be weekly or monthly at first, then biannual or annual after a few years of growth.
  • Absolutely with satellite monitoring, but not only! Field monitoring is ideally carried out by a network of people in charge of sampling in the region and/or people trained on your site by your service provider.
An example of our MORFO dashboard: used by our customers, it enables you to track all data, analyses, information and progress of your project at any time. You can request a demo of our dashboard by clicking here.
MORFO dashboard

5. Integration of local communities

Working closely with local communities through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) benefits both the supplier and the communities.

Choose a reforestation provider that implements a participatory process in its reforestation projects to actively include local stakeholders. Close collaboration with local actors and stakeholders is essential for the long-term success of reforestation initiatives, providing support for seed collection, land preparation and long-term project monitoring.

Local communities are a valuable source of knowledge about the characteristics of your land and the ecosystem it supports. In exchange for their contribution, it is important that your provider supports the local economy by promoting equitable economic redistribution, and seeks to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with these communities by restoring their native forests, helping to broaden their understanding of complex ecological systems and their impact by human activities.

A concrete example of this approach is MORFO's reforestation project in Miguel Pereira, in the northern state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In collaboration with ITPA, a Brazilian organization experienced in tree planting, we set out to restore the Atlantic forest, one of the most damaged in the world. In this 50-hectare project, we used drones to replant part of the area, while local people took part in the manual planting. This initiative is helping to regenerate a critical area that supplies much of the Rio de Janeiro region's water and energy.

To find out more about our projects and our staff, go to the page PROJECTS page of our website.

In conclusion, the 5 questions to ask when meeting with a company offering to reforest

  1. How do you plan to bring biodiversity to my property? What planting methods will you use?
  2. Do you know the local ecosystem? Do you have a large catalog of native species in keeping with the local ecosystem?
  3. Do you carry out a precise soil analysis prior to planting in order to determine a precise planting plan?
  4. Is the project monitored after planting? For how long?
  5. How will you involve local communities in the project?

Image source: Pedro Abreu & MORFO
Environmental Content Manager
Lorie Louque
- Paris, France

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