Forests are important because they:

  • are the lungs of our planet
  • fight against climate change by catching and storing carbon so that it doesn't become a greenhouse bas.
  • keep the soil together that helps to grow more plants. Without this, the land would become a desert.
  • collect, clean and keep fresh water, so it doesn't go back into the ocean and prevents flooding.
  • keep things cool be giving shade and vaporizing the air.
  • provide habitat to endangered species and animals that can live only in the forest.
  • are the home to many people.
  • give us plants that can cure several diseases.
  • give us various foods, such as fruits nuts and syrups

Did you know?

  • 29% of the earth oxygen is made in the Amazon forest
  • Over 25% of the medicines we use today originate from rainforest plants
  • The oldest trees are over 4,000 years old!!!


  • Forests one covered 60% of the Earth, today only 30%
  • Rainforests have decreased by almost 1/2 in just a few decades.
  • This year, more than 4 million heactares of forests will be cut down. That's the same size as 7 million football fields or the country of Belgium!


As the world population gets bigger, farmers need more and more land to grow crops to feed people and animals.

More people means we need more space for people to live. Forests are cut down to make roads and houses

Bio fuels such as ethanol, soy and palm oil are used in food, beauty products and as gas for cars, so forests are cleared to make biofuel plantations.

Poor people in many countries have to use wook from trees in order to make cooking fires and to heat their houses.

Trees are cut down for wood to make products used in construction, and for paper, furnature, boats, etc.

Many forests are full of minerals like gold, diamonds and copper, so trees are cut down in order to mine the minerals.


Reforestation involves the replanting or regeneration of forest areas that have previously been damaged or destroyed. Areas of forest that have been severaly degraded are unlikely to be able to regenerate naturally and need to be replanted.

Did you know"
A forest (depending on type) may need between 25-100 years to fully recover and reach previous productivity level after a reforestation project

Deforestation Lesson, Part1: Deforestation
What is Deforestation and Reforestation?

Deforestation is when humans clear large areas of forest land and related ecosystems for non-forest use. These include clearing lands for farming purposes, ranching, and urban use.

Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation.

Why Deforesation is a Serious Problem?

Forests currently still cover 30% of the world's land area. The 33 million acres of forestland that are cut down annual make up 20% of the annual human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

The world's rainforests could vanish within 100 years at the current rate of deforestation.

What Causes Deforestation

Agriculture - Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock.

Hydroelectric Dams - These dams flood upstream of forests, which leads to widespread forest loss, habitat degradation, and displacement of forest communities and wildlife.

Logging Operations - Logging operations provides the world's wood and paper products, and cut countless trees each year.

Road Building - Fragments the landscape, endangers the wildlife habitat, and provides access points for illegal loggers that encroach into the forest.

Mining - Mining for metals such as gold, copper, or aluminium clears large tracts of natrual forests and contaminates forest eco-systems with their runoff.

Reforestation Lesson, Part 2: Reforestation

Imagine that we could plant 1 million trees this year, what could 1 million trees do to benefit the earth? 1 Million trees could:
Absorb 38,000 metric tons of CO2 in the first 10 years of life, which would help keep our atmosphere in balance. This amount of CO2 absorption would be enough to offset the climate impact of 8,000 vehicles for 1 year.
Supply oxygen for up to 4 million people each day.
Improve the lives of over 1,000 farmers and their families by providing sustainable resources that can be utilized for food and work.

Past present

Why Preserve Forests and Plant Trees?

Prevent land degradation - Tree roots hold soil together and prevent erosion.
Forests prevent the loss of fertile topsoil and help retain moisture.
Without Soil cohesion, flooding and landslides ensue.

Preserve Habitats and Sustain Ecosystem Services
Many animal species and human communities depend on forests for survival.
Forests are home to over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity.

Maintain Water Cycle
Trees extract groundwater through their roots and release it into the atmosphere. When part of a forest is removed, the trees no longer evaporate away this water, resulting in a much drier climate.

How has global forest cover changed over time

Celebrate trees

Video 1 - Reforestation Impact on Climate

Video 2 - Reforestation Project

Video 3 - Discovery Channel Reforestation

Additional Lesson Plans/Resources

USA's NASA Explains Deforestation


Make a poster describing one of the impacts of deforestation that were mentioned in this lesson. These will be presented orally in front of the class.

Include in your presentation:
One of the direct impacts mentioned in this lesson.
A proposal and detailed plan for how this problem can be fixed. (You may need to research what your local region is currently doing to fix the issue, and base your plan off of that.)
Pictures or other helpful visual aids.


Reforestation - Definitions from Dictionary.com. dictionary.reference.com.

Retrieved 2016-04-19.


Mother Nature Network

United Nations Environment Programme http://geodata.grid.unep.ch/extras/posters.php

Making Tree-Planting Projects Work for the Rural Poor in Latin America

By Sarah Jane Wilson

1) Introduction: Tree planting is a powerful tool – but we can make it better Tropical forests in South America are being decimated at a rate of 4 million hectares per year, the highest in the world (FAO 2005, FAO 2012). This has consequences not only for habitat loss, but also often for farmers who clear these forests. Seeking to improve their income and lives, rural farmers often do not feel the environmental effects of this clearing until it is too late – when farming systems begin to suffer from a lack of key ecosystem services that forests provide (MEA 2005).

Local forests and on-farm trees are important for farming. Forests provide people with food (fruit, nuts, roots, meat), fuelwood, pollinators for their crops, and protection from soil erosion due to wind and water. Forested watersheds can regulate water flow by reducing floods and droughts, provide clean drinking water, and serve as a refuge for local plants and animals (Dalle and Potvin 2004, MEA 2005, Knoke et al. 2009). In montane areas, forests can increase precipitation by capturing water from passing clouds (Bruijnzeel et al. 2010). Planting trees can help restore these functions in deforested areas (Chazdon et al. 2003, Bhagwat et al. 2008). Planting trees can stabilize yields, diversify production, sustain soils, and provide revenue in rural communities (Current et al. 1995, Garen 2009, Jose 2009).

Tree planting has also become big business. International agencies, governments and businesses now spend billions of dollars a year promoting tree planting for a myriad of economic and environmental reasons: to restore degraded land, produce timber, sequester carbon as a part of climate change mitigation strategies, alleviate poverty, and conserve biodiversity (UNEP 2013)

But tree-planting projects can also fail. Some can even damage farming systems and rural livelihoods. Planting trees can degrade the environment - for example, planting teak, a common lumber tree, in plantations can erode soils. Tree plantation projects can also displace local people from land they traditionally farmed. In some cases, plantations have replaced primary forests, releasing carbon and reducing biodiversity. In Indonesia, for example, over 15,000 km2 of primary forests were replaced by palm oil plantations between 2000 and 2010. This process emitted more than 0.020 gigatons of carbon per year and displaced forest-dependant peoples.

Trees can also die if not properly maintained or protected after planting. In China, where massive reforestation efforts are occurring, up to 85% of the planted trees died within a few years of planting. High tree mortality can also occur in smaller-scale tree-planting projects. Tree-planting projects can also fail if local people do not want or need them, and hence do not support them. Tree planting alone is not a guaranteed 'win-win' solution for people and the environment.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) joins other G8 countries in recognizing that to create sustainable agricultural systems, increase food security, and improve human well-being and livelihoods, it is essential that we improve environmental conditions and create sustainable farming systems (CIDA 2006, Carney 2012). The international community is also eager to sponsor tree-planting projects: tree planting has broad public appeal, can be used motivate and engage local people in environmental protection, and can achieve a wide range of human and environmental goals, including conserving biodiversity and sequestering carbon (e.g., CBD, Moir et al. 2007, UNEP 2013). The question is: how can we best take advantage of this public and financial support available for tree planting to make treeplanting projects work for local communities? How can we maximize the benefits of tree planting for local people and environments?

This paper provides a framework to make tree planting simultaneously achieve international and local goals in Latin America by tailoring tree-planting projects to meet local social needs and environmental conditions. Before and after the actual tree planting takes place, we need to add steps that include 1) planning project goals and objectives with local people, and 2) providing financial and technical support for management after planting. A framework for making tree-planting projects more effective at achieving multiple social and environmental goals is presented in Figure 1 and Box 3. These steps will also provide a better return on investments to international donors who fund tree-planting projects by increasing the survival and persistence of planted trees (Box 3, Figure 2).

Fig 1Box 3) Planning and adaptive management: the overlooked keys to successful tree-planting projects

Tree-planting projects often report how many trees will be or have been planted as a measure of project success (UNEP 2013). But the act of planting trees is only a small part of the tree-planting process (See Figure 4 for a list of more appropriate metrics). For a project to succeed, trees also need to survive, grow, and persist.

Before planting: choose species that are suitable for the environment

Tree species need to be adapted to local climate and soil conditions. In commercial plantations, people often plant non-native trees that can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. In agroforestry and restoration projects (see Box 4), planting a variety of native species is desirable. Working with local people who have forest knowledge can help project managers select native species that will grow well. Local people can also increase the value of planted forests by choosing species that they can use in the future (Wilson, S. unpublished data).

After planting: continue to monitor and manage planted trees!

Planted trees generally require care to survive and grow, especially in the first few years. Projects need to develop plans to monitor planted sites, and to actively maintain sites when necessary (i.e., removing competing plants from around the trees, controlling insect pests, watering trees during droughts). Policy should fund post-planting adaptive management actions, and provide funding for technicians to train local people to carry out these actions (Agrawal and Angelsen 2009).

After planting 2: conserve planted trees?

Are trees being planted to be harvested or felled, or to stay in the ground? If the latter, which is often a requirement for carbon sequestration or biodiversity conservation funding, conserving planted trees needs to be an explicit goal in project planning. Commercial timber plantations are generally harvested. Many agroforestry systems are cyclical: forests are grown, then cleared or thinned and replanted (Schroth et al. 2004). On the other hand, restored forests are planted explicitly to recreate long-term native forest cover. Forest conservation is much more effective when local people are on board with conservation goals – involving people from the beginning in developing project goals and rules can help make this happen (Agrawal and Angelsen 2009).


Figure 2: Making tree planting work internationally by improving project success locally: a positive feedback loop. Green boxes show the actions and outcomes and purple boxes explain the conditions and processes that can make tree planting into positive feedback loop.

2) Not all plantations are created equal: What is ‘tree planting’ and how does it meet environmental goals?

‘Tree planting’ can produce many different results depending on how it is done. Tree planting typically involves growing and planting tree seedlings, but can also include planting tree seeds, or transplanting seedlings that have spontaneously regenerated. It can occur on land that was previously deforested (reforestation), or land that was not previously forest, such as grasslands (afforestation) (FAO 2001). Differences in the location and type of tree planting activity will influence both the initial fixed-cost investment of planting trees (i.e., the types of trees that are planted and the care they require), and the ecological benefits and impacts of planting trees (Farley et al. 2004, Box 4).

At its best, tree planting can benefit both people and the environment by improving farming systems, sequestering carbon (Wolf et al. 2011), providing alternative sources of timber and firewood, and conserving biodiversity by creating plant and animal habitat, and simultaneously reducing clearing in primary forest (Chazdon et al. 2003, Bhagwat et al. 2008).

Box 4: Major types of planted forests in Latin America: environmental impacts and carbon sequestration values


Commercial plantations are stands of trees planted often with only one, non-native tree species. They are the most common type of planted ‘forest’ globally (FAO 2007, Rudel 2009). Who plants and why: Governments, corporations, communities, and (less commonly) individual farmers plant commercial plantations to produce timber or other tree-related products (Rudel 2009), or to sequester carbon (Farley et al. 2004).

Environmental impacts: Plantation trees are often good at growing in harsh conditions. But, plantations can degrade the environment. Planting teak (Tectona grandis), a common plantation tree in central America, can erode soils and make conditions worse for native trees to grow back (Healy and Gara 2003). Eucalyptus plantations (Eucalyptus spp.), common in the central Andean Valley, can emit toxins that prevent native trees from growing (Zhang et al. 2010). Plantations can also require large amounts of water (Farley et al. 2005). Plantation forests are generally dissimilar to native forests: they have lower biodiversity and provide less natural habitat for animals and plants (Healy and Gara 2003, Kanowiski et al. 2005). Carbon: Plantations of fast-growing trees can be used to quickly sequester large amounts of carbon (Kraenzel et al. 2003). However, because areas planted with only one species are more vulnerable to damage from wind or pest outbreaks, they are also risky for carbon sequestration - if trees die, stored carbon is released into the atmosphere (Fu et al. 1996). Trees can also be cut in as few as 10 years, so carbon benefits can be short-lasting.


Agroforests are farming systems that incorporate trees to increase farming sustainability or productivity (World Agroforestry Centre). Agroforests are everything from planted windbreaks along fields and trees in pasture, to systems in which crops (e.g., coffee) are grown in older forests (Schroth et al. 2004).
Who plants and why: Farmers practice agroforestry to prevent soil erosion, produce perennial tree crops and wood products, increase agricultural yields, reduce pesticide use, diversify livelihoods, etc. (Current et al. 1995)
Environmental impacts: Agroforestry systems are more biodiverse than other types of agriculture but still have fewer species than primary forests (McNeely and Schroth 2006, Schroth and Harvey 2007, Bhagwat et al. 2008). They can provide habitat for many species, including birds, insects, mammals and plants.
Carbon: Agroforesty systems can sequester large amounts of carbon, but because they are so diverse and use many different species, it is difficult to generalize a quantity (Montagnini and Nair 2004).

Restored forests

The goal of forest restoration is to return a degraded area to forest similar to forest present in the past (Harris and Van Digglen 2006, Palmer et al. 2006). In Latin America, restoration often involves planting native trees that will allow other trees to grow back under the canopy.
Who plants and why: NGOs, farmers, development agencies, and conservationists participate in restoration to restore ecological processes and forest functions (Nave and Rodrigues 2007, p. 103, Gonzalez-Espinosa et al. 2007). These functions include preventing floods, erosion, maintaining pollinators, and so on. They also plant to have a source of forest products, including wild foods, medicinal plants, timber, and firewood.
Environmental impacts: People can plant species that have a high conservation priority, e.g., endangered, ecologically or culturally important species. Restored forests can conserve biodiversity (Nepstad et al. 1991, S. Wilson unpublished data).

Carbon: Because they are often more resistant to pests and disease, forests replanted with a mix of native species are a good option to sequester carbon (Diaz et al., 2009, Piotto et al., 2010, Potvin et al. 2011).

Section 3) How can planting trees help farmers? Different types of tree planting produce different local benefits

Farmers can plant trees to remedy environmental problems that they are already experiencing (‘push factors’). Alternatively, they might be enticed to plant because they believe planting trees will provide extra income, stability, or other benefits to farming systems (‘pull factors’)(Figure 3).

Push Factors
Pull Factors
Declining soil fertility
Water contamination
Drought (dry season)
Floods (rainy season)
Fuel shortages (firewood)
Soil erosion
Pressure from outside agents
(community members, governments)
Diversity farming systems
Provide new profitable crops (i.e. shade grown coffee cacao)
Source of timber
Income from carbon credits or other payment for environmental service schemes
Income from ecotourism
Income from participating in projects

Figure 3: Tree planting and farmer livelihoods: Why plant trees? ‘Push’ factors are environmental problems that can be remediated by tree planting, ‘pull’ factors are additions to farming systems.

Planting trees sustains and diversifies farming systems by providing the following benefits:

Enhanced food security: Agroforesty can enhance food security by diversifying farming systems in which people have alternative food sources, such as fruit or nuts, to harvest if other crops fail (Viera et al, Bhagwat et al. 2009). Interplanting trees with crops can also prevent plant diseases from spreading (Altieri and Nicholls 2004). Trees also prevent wind from damaging crops, and create microclimates good for growing certain crops. Agroforestry can also help stabilize yields from year to year, making harvests more consistent and enhancing local food security (Altieri and Nicholls 2004).

Improved soil quality: Immediately after forests are cleared, tropical soils are often fertile for growing crops. But, if not carefully managed, soil fertility will decline over time. Smallholders often react to declining soil fertility by adding fertilizer, abandoning unproductive agricultural land, or continuing to farm at low productivity levels that are barely sufficient to meet household needs (Howeler 1991, Barrett 2008). Planting trees can maintain or enhance soil fertility without costly chemical fertilizers. Planting nutrient-fixing trees, such as legumes, in and around fields can make land more fertile, and farmers can use the leaves of these trees to make nutrient-rich mulch and compost (Sanchez 1999, Melo et al. 2013). Farmers can also plant trees along the edges of fields to reduce topsoil erosion from wind and water, and to increase soil moisture.

Increased pasture productivity: Planting trees and shrubs in pastures can provide high quality food to cows and increase milk and meat production in a given area. Many trees and shrubs have highly nutritious leaves that can be harvested for animal feed for cattle and smaller livestock, such as pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs (Calle et al. 2009).

Agroforestry, restoration, and plantations produce harvestable products

Forests and trees in agroforestry systems and restored forests can provide households with timber, firewood, food (nuts, fruits), medicine, fodder/fertilizer, animal feed, and other products. These products can be sold, if accessible markets exist, or used for subsistence purposes instead of purchasing market products. There is usually a lag of several years between planting a tree and harvesting its products – providing financial support to farmers during this period can help ease the transition from other production systems to ones with trees (Current et al. 1995).

Shade-grown or organically-produced crops can often be sold at a higher price, as is the case with shade-grown coffee (Perfecto et al. 2005). However, smallholders often need access to certification programs to receive this benefit. Other common shade-grown crops include cacao, nuts and palm products. Supporting and establishing certification programs that smallholder farmers can access can increase the benefits from tree planting (Bacon et al. 2008).

Forest restoration and agroforestry can produces community-wide benefits: pollination and water

When people plant trees on their farms, the entire community benefits from shared ecosystem services (i.e., increased pollinator populations) (Jha and Vandermeer 2010). Coordinating planting efforts in specific zones at the community level can make these benefits even greater. For example, planting in watersheds can reduce water contamination from crops and livestock by creating buffer zones (Uriarte et al. 2011), although care should be used when selecting species, as planting water-demanding trees can also reduce streamflow (Bonell and Bruijnzeel 2005). In the long term, forested watersheds can prevent flooding and erosion, maintain clean water supplies, and enhance the water storage capacity of soil (Hamilton and King 1983). Farmers or communities can also replant forests on land that is more marginally suited for agriculture, such as steep slopes or less productive areas, which can provide many of the benefits of forest without taking fertile farming land out of production.

Condition to
Tree survirorship
- Number or percentage of trees surviving after 1 your and after 5 years
Tree mortality is often highest in the first few years. Monitoring tree survival can allow people to modify their management strategies and replant dead trees.
Tree replanting
- Number of trees that people have replanted after 1 and 5 years
This metric shows how well the trees are growing and if trees are being routinely cared for (Holmes et al., unpublihed data)
Tree Health
- Number of 'healthy' trees after 1 and 5 years, based on how local people perceive tree health
Recording tree health ensures that monitoring programs are in place, allows people to intervene if trees are dying, and can be used to gather information about how tree species perform in restoration.
Tree maintenance
- Frequency of maintenance
- Maintenance activities
These metrics ensure that funding and plans are in place for caring for trees after planting.
Projects should have a maintenance plan in place suitable to the local environment, and that can be adapted according to how trees perform in restoration.
Communitiy participation
- Percentage of households who participate over time
Monitoring the percent of households who participate over the first 10 years will show if, and to what extent, people are adopting the project. If numbers do not increase, additional support or interventions might be needed.
Community participation: including marginalized groups
- Range of income levels or landholding in the households who participate
- Proportion of men vs. women who participate
Metrics chosen will depend on project goals: food security, poverty alleviation, etc. These metrics aim to ensure that the more marginalized members of communities – poor, female-led, minority households, for example – are motivated and able to participate.
Local value of planted forests
- Number of species and trees planted with local use value, or other cultural significance
This measures if local values and preferences are being taken into account, as well as the potential utility of the forests
Environmental value of planted forests
- Number of native tree species planted
- Number of native tree species surviving after 1 and 5 years
Planting local tree species increases the environmental benefits. Certain local species are also often best adapted to persist in local conditions

Figure 4: Summary of ecological and social metrics for success. Commonly reported metrics of success include the number or area of trees planted, and the number of tones of carbon sequestered. To create more successful tree-planting projects, metrics that reflect a diverse array of project goals are needed. For sustainable projects that benefit local people, metrics should focus on project longevity, environmental outcomes, and participation rates and equity.

Box 6: Synergies between restoring forests and agroforestry: Using community reforestation as a teaching tool to grow and use trees in farming systems

In 2010, Wilson (2012) visited 8 communities with NGO-led reforestation projects in North-West Andean Ecuador. People explained that prior to the reforestation projects, they did not plant on their own farms because:

  1. People thought farming and trees were incompatible
  2. People lacked information on how to propagate local species
  3. People lacked resources and technical skills to set up tree nurseries
  4. People were unwilling to take farmland out of production to experiment with tree planting

In each case, an NGO interested in biodiversity conservation paid people to plant trees on small areas of communally-owned and managed land, around a community centre, school, or in a watershed area. NGOs worked with people to select tree species for planting and to propagate trees, and projects had an environmental education component about how trees help conserve water and reduce wind - major problems in all 8 communities.

The result was that not only did people plant in communal projects, but they also began planting trees on their private farms using the information and skills they had learned in communal projects. Four communities set up community nurseries to sell trees and to provide farmers with trees in exchange for their work in the nursery.

What worked:

  1. Planting trees in small areas of communal land meant that no individual farmer had to experiment on their own farm at the expense of producing food.
  2. Communal projects were accessible to all because people were paid (a standard farmhand wage) to plant.
  3. Communal lands served as experimental areas for discovering which local tree species worked best for restoration – which grew fastest, could tolerate drought, produce fruits or other food, and were preferred by animals (wild and domestic). People learned how to propagate trees, and learned which local species can easily be grown in nurseries.
  4. The projects created a space for discussing trees. Through developing projects with technicians and NGO staff, people learned about how trees can be used to benefit farming systems – NGOs helped communities purchase small areas of land in strategic places – in watersheds, or around community centres and schools. Technicians and NGO staff learned about which trees people use and value, and would prefer to grow.
  5. There was a space for people to plant the species they wanted – people were involved in all stages of the projects.
  6. NGOs worked with existing institutions and trained local farmers as technicians – technicians understood local concerns and challenges, and were trusted by many people in communities.

And, people could see the benefits of tree planting first hand. One farmer summarized the sentiment of many: “now, because we planted trees, we are healthier, and the air and the water cleaner.”

Communities went from largely deforested to green in the space of 10 years, and people went from describing trees as an agricultural impediment to an agricultural tool.