Trees store carbon, filter the air, create habitat, and supply a host of other benefits for animals and people.
Trees store carbon, filter the air, create habitat, and supply a host of other benefits for animals and people. Planting the right trees, in the right places, in consultation with local communities, can support goals like addressing climate change and improving lives. However, new research led by Matthew Fagan, assistant professor of geography and environmental systems at UMBC, finds that some trees planted in the tropics may be doing more harm than good.
The study, published in Nature Sustainability, examined the increase in tree cover across the global tropics between 2000 and 2012. Fagan and colleagues found that, surprisingly, tree cover gains during that period were equally attributable to natural forest regrowth and the creation of tree plantations. The most common tree plantation species were rubber, eucalyptus, and oil palm.
Tree plantations are not always harmful to the environment, and even much-maligned oil palm can be farmed sustainably, Fagan explains. However, the study found that 92 percent of new tree plantations were in biodiversity hotspots, threatening a range of plant and animal species. Also, 14 percent of plantations were in arid biomes, where trees are unlikely to thrive and likely to damage existing ecosystems. And tree plantations had encroached into 9 percent of accessible protected areas in the humid tropics, such as national parks.
Read more at: University of Maryland Baltimore County
A plantation of non-native teak trees in Costa Rica. (Photo Credit: Matthew Fagan)