By Bill Toomey, Conservation Science Lead for Plant a Billion Trees
One billion trees. Even for someone who, everyday, deals with the science and mathematics around the question of how many trees can we plant to help save the planet, one billion is a hard number to comprehend. It’s planting one million trees one thousand times. That’s a lot of trees.
Forests are being cut down and cleared at the rate of 32 million acres worldwide every year. They’re being converted to other uses such as development, agriculture and plantations; they’re being fragmented — chopped up into small sections that become unsustainable habitat for important species; the natural processes that some forests need, such as fires and flooding, have been altered; and introduction and spread of tree pests and diseases threaten to global forests.
Trees and forests help sustain all life on Earth. They are the source of clean water for millions of people around the globe, and provide clean air and climate control.
In 2008, The Nature Conservancy launched the Plant a Billion Tree program in Brazil to address the urgent issue of deforestation in the Atlantic Forest — a forest that is a mere shadow of what it once was, with 90 percent of its original cover gone from the Earth.
Since then, Plant a Billion Trees has raised funds to reforest almost 14,000 acres of land in the Atlantic Forest, planting and protecting over 14 million trees. But Brazil isn’t the only place on the planet where forests are threatened, and so the Conservancy identified other priority and threatened landscapes to be included in the Plant a Billion Trees program.
On April 25 we launched the expansion of the program to include large-scale forest restoration projects in the southeastern United States and China, and expanded the work in Brazil. The goal of the program is to plant and restore over 1.6 million acres of forestlands around the globe, with over 1.2 billion trees growing by 2025.
The interactive maps on plantabillion.org provide detail on where these projects are located and why we chose these sites for restoration work.
In expanding the program, we chose existing large-scale forest restoration projects that were located in landscapes that have an important diversity of plants and animals, and that are important to local economies.
This initial phase of expansion will include four projects in the US, two in China and two in Brazil.
The Plant a Billion Tree campaign at its core is about restoring critically important forest systems around the globe for the benefit of people and nature.
The support we receive from this campaign will be used to enhance the Conservancy’s ability to restore more acres more quickly.
Forest restoration is more than putting a seed in the ground; it involves a suite of restoration techniques that include tree planting, site preparation and stewardship, prescribed burning, restoring proper hydrology, creating the conditions for natural regeneration, and other techniques to restore these forest systems over time.
I’ve seen first-hand what this kind of work can do — work that involves multiple partners with a common goal, using funds and support generated by you — people that care about our global forests.
Last fall the Conservancy worked with the Longleaf Pine Project, the National Arbor Day Foundation and 4 local non-profit tree planting partners to plant over 130,000 trees in the southeastern states, 3 national parks in California and Washington and in 4 cities (Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco) with the support of Odwalla and Target.
Funds from Plant a Billion will continue this kind of work around the globe. Help us plant a billion trees. Your gift helps plant trees and restores critical forests around the globe.