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Land Use


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.


Monterey pine…most widely planted tree: Farjon, Aljos. Pinus radiata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013.

estimate…of carbon dioxide [sequestration]: Caldecott, Ben, Guy Lomax, and Mark Workman. “Stranded Carbon Assets and Negative Emissions Technologies.” Working paper. Oxford, UK: Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, 2015.

plantation forestry…forest cover…commercial wood: WWF. Living Forests Report: Chapter 4—Forests and Wood Products. Gland, Switzerland: World Wide Fund for Nature, 2012.

China’s…“Great Green Wall”: Cao, Shixiong, Li Chen, David Shankman, Chunmei Wang, Xiongbin Wang, and Hong Zhang. “Excessive Reliance on Afforestation in China’s Arid and Semi-Arid Regions: Lessons in Ecological Restoration.” Earth-Science Reviews 104, no. 4 (2011): 240-245; Liu, Coco. “China’s Great Green Wall Helps Pull CO2 Out of Atmosphere.” Scientific American. April 24, 2015; Luoma, Jon. “China’s Reforestation Programs: Big Success or Just an Illusion?” Yale Environment 360. January 17, 2012.

“plantation conservation benefit”: Buongiorno, J., and S. Zhu. “Assessing the Impact of Planted Forests on the Global Forest Economy.” New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science 44 (2014): 1–9.

New Generation Plantations: Payn, Tim, Jean-Michel Carnus, Peter Freer-Smith, Mark Kimberley, Walter Kollert, Shirong Liu, Christophe Orazio, Luiz Rodriguez, Luis Neves Silva, and Michael J. Wingfield. “Changes in Planted Forests and Future Global Implications.” Forest Ecology and Management 352 (2015): 57-67.

Akira Miyawaki…different method of afforestation: Miyawaki, Akira. “Restoration of Living Environment Based on Vegetation Ecology: Theory and Practice.” Ecological Research 19, no. 1 (2004): 83-90; JFS. “Plant Native Trees, Recreate Forests to Protect the Future: Respected Ecosystem Scientist Akira Miyawaki.” Japan for Sustainability Newsletter no. 103, March 2011.

part of planting…40 million trees: Lufkin, Bryan. “Akira Miyawaki Has Planted 40 Million Trees as a Tidal-Wave Shield.” Wired. January 6, 2014.

Miyawaki’s forests [vs.] a conventional plantation: Wakefield, Jane. “Grow Your Own Tiny Forest on the Web.” BBC News. October 8, 2014.

Afforestt…open-source methodology: Peters, Adele. “These Miniature Super-Forests Can Green Cities with Just A Tiny Amount Of Space.” Fast Company. October 27, 2014.

Jadav Payeng, the “forest-man of India”: Yashwant, Shailendra. “The Strange Obsession of Jadav Payeng.” Sanctuary Asia 32, no. 6, December 2012; McMaster, William Douglas. “The Man Who Built a Forest Larger Than Central Park.” Video on November 11, 2014.

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