Planting Intentions

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A new study found that those altruistic tree-planting projects might be having negative consequences for the local ecosystems, New Scientist reported.

Scientists recently analyzed data from the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), a project in which 34 countries in the continent pledged to reforest 133.6 million hectares of land.

The AFR100 is part of the wider Bonn Challenge, a global initiative that seeks to restore 350 million hectares of degraded or deforested land around the world by 2030.

But researcher Katy Parr and her team discovered a concerning pattern when they compared the size of the areas committed for forest restoration in each AFR100 country with the areas that are naturally forest habitats.

In 18 countries, more than 50 percent of the pledged regions included non-forested ecosystems, which included grasslands and savannahs.

“That’s the size of France, it’s enormous,” said Parr.

She explained that mass planting trees in these areas can negatively impact the local flora, such as blocking sunlight for smaller plants to grow. This will then have a knock-on effect on the animals, such as zebras that feed on the plants.

The team noted that many of the countries involved receive funding to carry out reforestation projects, so there is a financial incentive to not be picky about the type of land.

They hope that individuals responsible for these initiatives work with local communities to protect ecosystems and ensure people’s livelihoods aren’t affected.

An AFR100 spokesperson countered the study’s findings, saying the initiative has made it clear that grasslands should not be converted into forests.

“The authors of this article mistakenly equate restoration with reforestation and assume that AFR100 focuses solely on the latter, which is untrue,” they added.

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