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Land Use

Afforestation

This is a typical single-story tree plantation in Umatilla, Oregon, consisting of poplar trees planted with eight-foot spacing in order to force upward, knot-free growth.

Creating new forests where there were none before is the aim of afforestation. Degraded pasture and agricultural lands, or other lands corrupted from uses such as mining, are ripe for strategic planting of trees and perennial biomass.

Afforestation can take a variety of forms—from seeding dense plots of diverse indigenous species to introducing a single exotic as a plantation crop, such as the fast-growing Monterey pine, the most widely planted tree in the world. Whatever the structure, afforestation creates a carbon sink, drawing in and holding on to carbon and distributing it into the soil.

Plantations comprise the majority of afforestation projects and are on the rise globally, planting trees for timber and fiber and, increasingly, carbon offsets. Plantations are controversial because they are often created with purely economic motives and little regard for the long-term well-being of the land, environment, or surrounding communities.

To counter the ecological deserts of monoculture tree farms, Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki devised a completely different method of afforestation. His fast-growing, dense plots of native species show that afforestation can draw down carbon, while supporting biodiversity, addressing human needs for firewood, food, and medicine, and providing ecosystem services such as flood and drought protection.

Technical summaries for each solution will be available May 1, 2017.

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