Giant, abstract trees hold up the roof of an experimental Korean home

November 21, 2019 by  
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When designing the House of Three Trees, Seoul-based architecture practice Jae Kim Architects & Researchers (JK-AR) started with a question: What would Korean architecture look like if timber remained the dominant construction material from ancient times until today? To answer this alternate-reality proposition, the architects conceived a project representative of “the rebirth of East Asian timber architecture of the 21st century” that blends digital design and fabrication with traditional Korean architecture. Built with sculptural, tree-like structures that employ the iconic wooden bracket systems of ancient times, the experimental home also relates to the local vernacular with low-cost materials commonly used in rural Korean buildings. During the late Joseon Dynasty of Korea in the 17th and 19th centuries, timber resources were mostly exhausted until globalization led to the import of cheaper wooden materials from around the world. Due to the popularization of reinforced concrete structures and the high cost of timber construction, development of timber architecture slowed. Using algorithmic tools, JK-AR envisions how timber architecture could have evolved had timber resources continued to be readily available with The House of Three Trees. The experimental home features tree-like supporting structures solely composed of wooden joinery — using more than 4,000 timber elements — constructed with traditional techniques and zero additive fasteners. Related: Moon Hoon’s funky new home captures sunlight on Jeju Island “The house criticizes today’s application of traditional buildings that is superficial, merely imitating traditional expressions in architecture, or too abstract,” the architects explained. “Rather, the house redefines the virtue of East Asian timber buildings in its tectonic aspect which is a combination of structure and ornamentation. Moreover, the house serves as an example of how contemporary technology, such as design computation and digital fabrication, can reinterpret traditional architecture. Technology can give East Asian timber construction the potential to evolve in a new direction.” The home takes on a hexagonal shape, influenced by the irregular building plot, with an interior defined by three tree-like columns that support the roof. Covered in asphalt shingles, the butterfly roof is raised to provide a glimpse of the trees inside. Polycarbonate corrugated panels wrap around the home in a nod to rural Korean construction; these panels also create a double-skin around the plywood facade to improve the building’s insulation performance and water resistance. + Jae Kim Architects & Researchers Photography by Roh Kyung via Jae Kim Architects & Researchers

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Giant, abstract trees hold up the roof of an experimental Korean home

Four tiny pavilions make up a low-impact forest home in Mexico

November 13, 2019 by  
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A family that enjoys nature together, stays together. That’s the idea behind the amazing, nature-inspired Casa de Bosque by Mexican architectural firm, WEYES Studio . Tucked into a lush forest, the family home is comprised of four small glass-and-brick structures, all linked by a series of outdoor walkways that weave through the treetops. Located in a large forest just outside of Santiago, Nuevo León, the home features an ingenious design that ensures the human-made structures find true harmony with their natural surroundings. Wrapped in lush vegetation, the four pavilions were all installed with ultimate care to reduce their impact on the landscape. Related: A cluster of coast forest cabins brings a nature-loving family closer together The home is comprised of four compact, concrete-framed, glass cabins . The layout was guided by the existing trees and roots, and the team took care to safeguard the 17 trees that made up the building site. The cabins are connected by stairs, corridors and exterior bridges that run in tune with the topography, rising and weaving through the tree canopy. Out of the four tiny pavilions , the largest is 485 square feet and houses the main living area, which comes complete with a terrace and an interior patio. There is also a garage and storage unit, a private resting pavilion and another private area that is designed to be a guest home or office space. According to the architects, they built the entire home with simplicity and sustainability in mind. “You see a simple construction, without technical complications, with a lot of detail in the placement of its materials,” the firm said. “There is a wide variety of apparent materials that will age with dignity over time and will blend with the surroundings. We translated the love for nature and the original lifestyle of users into a “minimal footprint”; not to destroy natural contexts but to build in conjunction with them.” In addition to its low-impact design, the cabins were all built with passive energy systems. With reducing consumption at the forefront of the design, the homes were strategically positioned to take advantage of the shade of the trees and natural cross ventilation. To help maintain a constant temperature indoors, even during the winter, double walls made out of baked clay brick were used in the construction. Additionally, the cabins use minimal electricity thanks to natural lighting that filters through multiple windows and skylights. + WEYES Studio Via ArchDaily Photography by The Raws via WEYES Studio

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Four tiny pavilions make up a low-impact forest home in Mexico

Tacoma’s Dune Peninsula: from slag heap to beloved park

November 13, 2019 by  
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On a gorgeous fall day, people jog and walk dogs along Tacoma’s waterfront in the new Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park . Locals appreciate the almost miraculous transformation of this land. The human-made peninsula, named for the science-fiction book by Tacoma author Frank Herbert, was built over an accumulation of slag a manufacturer dumped into Puget Sound for 70 years. As Tacoma Park Board Commissioner Erik Hanberg said in a news release, “The theme in ‘Dune’ of a world destroyed by environmental catastrophe drew in part from Frank Herbert’s life experiences in Tacoma, which in the 1950s was one of the nation’s most polluted cities. The characters in the novel have a goal to ‘terraform’ their planet back to its inhabitable origins. That’s what we’ve done here. We have terraformed a polluted wasteland into a beautiful environment for all to enjoy.” Related: Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy The 11-acre addition to Point Defiance Park opened in July. The new Wilson Way bridge also opened, connecting Point Defiance Park to Ruston Way. Bicyclists , runners and walkers have long bemoaned the lack of connection between trails at this point, now solved by the new bridge. The most fun part of the design is a series of six slides connecting the park with the marina below. Stairs nearby offer another way to get down the slope, or a way to get back up, for those who want to repeat the slide experience — sometimes over and over. Concerts and other outdoor events have a new venue in the park’s Cambia Legacy Lawn. The paved Frank Herbert Trail provides a pedestrian path. Developers had a complex job of building this project around so many active uses, competing interests and different jurisdictions, according to Clayton Beaudoin, the principal of landscape architecture firm Site Workshop . This Seattle -based landscape architecture firm worked with Metro Parks Tacoma on designing the cleanup and layout of Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance. Metro Parks commissioned Adam Kuby and Nichole Rathburn to create site-specific artworks. Kuby’s work, Alluvion, uses steel pipes to suggest the smelter smokestack of the former ASARCO plant, long infamous for wafting “the Tacoma aroma” over the city. Rathburn’s Little Makers, a series of bronze forms, are based on the novel Dune, drawing parallels between the book’s plot and the transformation of a slag pile into a park. Beaudoin talked to Inhabitat about the transformation from slag heap to beloved new park. Inhabitat: What was this site like before you started building the park? Beaudoin: A portion of the site was occupied by the Tacoma Yacht Club, including their clubhouse, access road and parking. The other portion of the site was generally flat and covered with yard soils from the North Tacoma remediation project. There was no vegetation or infrastructure. Inhabitat: Tell us about the toxic slag — what were its risks to people? Beaudoin: The contaminants of concern (COCs) were lead and arsenic . When a new fracture face opened up, which happened as the slag weathered, small amounts of lead and arsenic would make their way into Commencement Bay, which caused heavy metal loading. The shoreline armoring and capping of the peninsula, which is located beneath the park, eliminates the metal loading to Commencement Bay. In addition, the slag could be ingested either by inhalation or eating it. The cap allows people to be on the peninsula and keeps them from having contact with the slag. Lead ingestion can cause severe mental impairment, and arsenic is a carcinogen. Inhabitat: How did you move it and where did the toxic slag go? Beaudoin: As part of the shoreline armoring, the slag was excavated to a 2:1 slope, so the shoreline armoring would be stable over time. The slag was moved using conventional construction equipment (excavator, articulated dump trucks and dozers). The excavated slag was placed on the peninsula (in the Yacht Club parking lot and under the park). The elevation of the peninsula was raised 10 to 20 feet to accommodate the slag and contaminated soil. This lowered the carbon footprint of the project by keeping the contamination onsite and not hauling it offsite. The capping system was then placed on top of the contaminated slag and soil. Inhabitat: Describe the woven geotextile cap. What is it? How big is it? What does it do? Beaudoin: There are three kinds of caps on the peninsula: low perm asphalt, low perm concrete and a multilayer cap composed of a geocomposite clay layer, 40 mil HDPE and a geonet. Each cap type prevents water from infiltrating the contaminants and then getting into Commencement Bay, and it also prevents people from coming in contact with the contaminants. The cap system is required to have a permeability less than 1 x 10-7 cm/sec. The cap covers all of the peninsula, which is about 13 acres. It also ties into the adjacent Point Ruston site, which is also a Superfund site and has a cap underneath it. This is the largest Superfund Redevelopment Project in Region 10 of the EPA . Inhabitat: What inspired you to build the slides? Beaudoin: Together with Metro Parks, Site Workshop has designed a lot of parks and public spaces, and we’ve learned to anticipate how people use space. At the very top of the slope is an overflow parking lo,t which we imagined would be used by boaters. After launching their boats, they would have to drive their trucks to the top and race back down some 90 feet of elevation to their boats. Slides seemed like the fastest — and most fun — way to do it. We’ve been working hillside slides into many of sloped projects, and since the Dune Peninsula was never intended to host a traditional playground, this seemed like a nice way to work something playful into the trail portion of project. Inhabitat: What do you like best about the resulting park? Beaudoin: The most gratifying and inspiring result is how the citizens of Tacoma have embraced the park in all of its rustic, rough and less-manicured edges. We think Dune Peninsula resonates with people because of how it celebrates Tacoma’s cultural and natural history without beating you over the head with it. There’s plenty of mystery to discover and beauty to inhale, and people (and the wildlife !) are responding in ways that should make everyone involved feel proud. Also, for such a large site, we were able to utilize several creative features, which were constructed in especially cost-effective but impactful ways. For example, the Moment Bridge, which has become a bit of an icon for the city, is constructed from off-the-shelf concrete girders akin to what you might see over a highway. However, the design team was able to craft those basic materials in a way that make it feel special, including the “moment” at the center, the railings and the unusually shaped piers. The planting scheme was developed to utilize site soils and be delivered in a way that minimizes maintenance compared to traditional landscapes (which import topsoil and bark mulch and require persistent maintenance). Early in the project, we created test plots to evaluate how the site soils responded to various amendments, which helped minimize cost and improve the success of the plantings. + Site Workshop Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Tacoma’s Dune Peninsula: from slag heap to beloved park

YouTube stars partner up in #TeamTrees campaign to plant 20 million trees

October 30, 2019 by  
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To combat the climate crisis , a coalition of YouTubers has joined together for a mammoth mission to plant 20 million trees beginning in January 2020. Called #TeamTrees, the reforestation campaign has social media all abuzz. They have, so far, raised enough funds to plant more than 8 million trees, and that number is rising. How did it all start? When YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, or MrBeast, reached the 20 million subscribers milestone on his YouTube channel, which is dedicated to extreme stunts and philanthropic challenges, his subscribers dared him to plant 20 million trees to commemorate the occasion. The campaign quickly went viral. Related: Scientists confirm tree planting is our best solution to climate change “People keep making fun of our generation for retweet activism and not actually doing something … this is your chance to make a difference,” MrBeast said to his supporters. “Just to be clear, we all realize 20 million trees won’t fix climate change . But at the end of the day, 20 million more trees is better than zero! We want to take action because doing nothing is how we got here!” Upward of 600 YouTube creatives have since joined the #TeamTrees initiative, even rallying their subscribers to follow suit with the planting trees endeavor. To date, these social media influencers have a combined total of 650 million subscribers, double the United States population.  Each $1 donation plants a single tree. In the first 48 hours of the #TeamTrees website going live on October 25, the initiative raised more than $5 million — and the funds keep growing. All donations are sent directly to the Arbor Day Foundation, the nonprofit devoted to tree planting . For almost 50 years, the nonprofit has planted 250 million trees worldwide. Trees funded by the #TeamTrees endeavor will be planted across the globe beginning January 2020. The Arbor Day Foundation anticipates a December 2022 completion date; the year 2022 will mark the 150th anniversary of the first Arbor Day. To promote successful tree survival rates, the Arbor Day Foundation will partner with the United State Forest Service, the National Park Service and the National Association of State Foresters to ensure the trees planted will not be invasive species . The trees chosen will be native to the region in which they are planted, many in national forests managed by government agencies. To speed up the process, the #TeamTrees campaign is entertaining a collaboration with DroneSeed, a company that deploys drones to plant trees in a scalable fashion. Small drones first map out the landscape, followed by larger drones that drop seed vessels at locations ideal for growing trees. Additionally, this eco-friendly YouTube collaboration is flooding the platform with tree content. The #TeamTrees coalition hopes to game the algorithm and push for more environmental videos to rank at the top of the recommended playlists. With tree videos trending next to cat videos, Mother Nature would be proud. + #TeamTrees Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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YouTube stars partner up in #TeamTrees campaign to plant 20 million trees

Aluminum cans vs plastic bottles: which is best for the environment?

October 30, 2019 by  
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We’ve all been guilty of buying an unsustainable beverage every once in a while, but when faced with the perplexing conundrum of whether to grab that plastic bottle or aluminum can, which do you believe to be more environmentally-friendly ? The history of plastic goes back to the early 1900s when the first fully synthetic plastic was invented as an alternative to the shellac used in electronic insulation. During World War II, plastic production increased by 300% in the United States as it was used for everything, from nylon in ropes and parachutes to plexiglass in airplane windows. After the war, commercial use of plastic had completely taken off and incorporated into virtually every product and market in modern life. By the 1960s, the first occurrence of plastic pollution in the oceans was recorded. Related: This rechargeable camping headlamp is made out of sustainable wood and recycled aluminum Today, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 80% of the marine debris found in our oceans originated as land-based trash that was not recycled. Over 90% of the plastics found in the ocean is comprised of microplastics, which commonly end up ingested by aquatic animals, often killing them through choking or toxicity. The National Geographic Society found that 91% of the world’s plastic was not recycled in 2018. That alarming statistic means that all but 9% of plastic waste ends up either in landfills or in the ocean. Plastic bottles are made from petroleum, or “crude oil.” Oil drilling, also known as fracking, wastes water, releases methane into the atmosphere, produces oil spills and generally wreaks havoc on the environment. Plastic bottles are typically too thin to recycle into more plastic bottles, but the material can be made into fibers for things like carpets, clothing and sleeping bags. In 2018, the recycling rate for plastic bottles was just over 29%. The use of aluminum cans was first introduced to the general public in 1959 by Coors. About five years later, Royal Crown Cola brought aluminum into the soft drinks game with their RC Cola and Diet Rite. Since then, they’ve been used for everything from energy drinks and sparkling waters to sodas and wine. Aluminum offered an affordable alternative to steel as well as a more convenient surface for company printed text and graphics. Aluminum cans can be recycled into more cans in a true “closed-loop” recycling process. In 2018 the recycling rate for aluminum cans was 49.8%. The liquid inside the aluminum can benefit from the material as well, since aluminum blocks light, moisture and oxygen from permeating the outside. This makes the drinks more sustainable , as they have a longer shelf-life. Lightweight cans have only decreased in weight over the years, with the first aluminum cans weighing about three ounces per unit and modern cans weighing less than half an ounce. Typically recycling programs value aluminum over plastic or glass, with the former holding $1,317 worth of value per ton of recyclable material versus plastic’s $299 per ton. This allows more municipal recycling programs to stay in service. IFC International, a global management consulting and technology company, found in a 2016 study that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation and refrigeration of aluminum are 7 to 21 percent lower than that of plastic and 35 to 49 percent lower than glass. The easy-to-recycle aluminum material doesn’t stop there; the shiny stuff’s strength is another advantage. According to the Aluminum Association , four six-packs can hold up a two-ton vehicle thanks to the packaging’s aversion to rust, corrosion and ability to withhold carbonation pressure. This stamina allows companies to package and transport more product using less material. Related: Prada jumps into the sustainability realm with six Re-Nylon bags made from recycled plastic waste When it comes to the amount of recycled material found in cans versus plastic bottles, aluminum has the upper hand, as well. In 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency found that aluminum cans contain three times the amount of recycled content than plastic. They also estimated that aluminum cans are made up of 73% recycled material on average.  Aluminum doesn’t occur in nature and is primarily comprised of bauxite rock, which is primarily found in Australia, India and Brazil. Collecting bauxite comprises of open-pit mining, which usually involves moving or bulldozing large amounts of vegetation and surface rocks. This type of mining negatively affects ecosystems and creates air and water pollution , which can cause health issues for wildlife and humans. Not to mention, the combination of electrolysis and chemical processing that it takes to turn bauxite into conventional aluminum takes a large amount of heat and energy. However, the Aluminum Association assures that land conservation has become an important focus among bauxite mining. Topsoil from the site is stored to be replaced after the process is finished, so “an average of 80 percent of the land mined for bauxite is returned to its native ecosystem.” So how can you make sure you’re not contributing to plastic or aluminum pollution? Always reach for that reusable water bottle before going out! Fill it with water, soda, juice or whatever you like. For those unavoidable times when you end up with plastic or aluminum waste, get some inspiration for recycling through Inhabitat! Images via pasja1000 , gepharts3d , filmbetrachterin , Enriquehgz , Mr.TinDC

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Aluminum cans vs plastic bottles: which is best for the environment?

Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021

October 25, 2019 by  
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Relentless Amazon deforestation and gross mishandling of the region by Brazilian authorities and agricultural advocates are pushing the world’s largest tropical rainforest closer to the brink of catastrophic ecological collapse. Even more alarming, once that tipping point is reached, there will be no way to reverse it. Estimates reveal that if mass environmental mismanagement persists, within two years’ time, the forest will collapse and will be unable to generate enough rain to sustain itself. The news was shared in a policy brief put forth by Monica de Bolle, a Peterson Institute for International Economics senior fellow in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the report only sparked controversy, with some climatologists and researchers arguing that the tipping point is still 15 to 25 years away. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis The Amazon is currently experiencing excessive deforestation, 75 percent of which is attributed to two ‘forest-risk commodities’: soybeans and beef — Brazil’s main exports. Widespread deforestation and land clearing diminish regional rainfall, exacerbating the risks of fire, drought and heat stress. These environmental stressors leave the trees and ecosystem vulnerable to parasites and pathogens, further predisposing the flora to far-reaching forest dry-up and ecological decline. Sadly, an unhealthy Amazon rainforest can no longer produce enough rain to sustain itself. The mortality of the rainforest’s trees would release billions of tons of carbon, intensifying greenhouse gas emissions and global warming . Dire consequences include biodiversity loss, rampant ecosystem failure and climate repercussions. Carlos Nobre, a leading climate scientist in Brazil, is one of de Bolle’s detractors. “The Amazon is already 17 percent deforested, so when you calculate at the current rate of deforestation, this 20 percent to 25 percent is reached in 15 to 20 years,” Nobre said. “I hope she is wrong. If she is right, it is the end of the world.” No matter whether the tipping point is reached by 2021 or later, what’s clear is that if things continue unabated in the Amazon, the once-treasured World Heritage site will collapse, and the entire world will suffer. Via The Guardian Image via NASA

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Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021

Sculptural, solar-powered home generates more energy than it uses

October 24, 2019 by  
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In the Texan suburb of Addison just north of Dallas, 5G Studio Collaborative has completed the Winnwood Residence, a contemporary home that blurs the line between the indoors and out. Certified LEED Platinum , the single-family home offsets all its energy use with a 10 kW rooftop solar array and geothermal wells drilled beneath the driveway. Walls of glass, large skylights and outdoor living spaces immerse the residents in the landscape and help bring in natural light and ventilation to reduce the home’s energy demands. Completed in 2016, the Winnwood Residence is a sculptural, single-story home that spreads out across 4,600 square feet to embrace varied landscape views, one of which is a land and water conservation park funded by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the U.S. Department of the Interior; the front third of the client’s property has been designated as an extension to the conservation project across the street. To keep focus on the outdoors, the architects opted for a minimalist yet modern design of “a solid black plaster mass sitting within an enclosed garden.” The interiors are also simple and feature white walls of smooth reflective plaster and minimalist decor. Related: Solar-powered Austin home can save owners nearly $100K in energy costs “The exterior finish is black plaster, upon which climbing Boston Ivy is expected to overtake overtime; the shadowy blackness of the exterior surfaces allows one to truly enjoy light, not shadow, filtering through the trees,” the architects explained in a statement. “The architecture elegantly and quietly achieves its sustainability objectives; proposes a new vocabulary of architecture that is decidedly un-local yet celebrates Texas living and is very much about the landscape as it is about the interior.” The building will gradually blend into the lush landscape, which has been repopulated with native and adaptive species. To further reduce site impact, the architects installed a rainwater collection cistern beneath the driveway to minimize runoff and increase water permeability. Geothermal and solar energy power the energy-positive home. + 5G Studio Collaborative Photography by Adam Mørk via 5G Studio Collaborative

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Sculptural, solar-powered home generates more energy than it uses

Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

October 2, 2019 by  
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Alder Creek, a 530-acre forest billed as the largest privately owned giant sequoia property in the world, will be acquired by century-old conservation group, Save the Redwoods League. The group will ultimately transfer the land to the United States Forest Service to safeguard the trees as a national treasure. Alder Creek’s sequoia trees number 483, many with diameters of 6 feet or greater. Mightiest of Alder Creek’s sequoias is Stagg Tree, believed to be the fifth-largest tree in the world. It towers at 250 feet with a width of 25 feet. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment Known for reaching heights of more than 300 feet, giant sequoias are esteemed for their rarity. What sets apart the giant sequoia from other trees is that it lives to be up to 3,000 years old, older than Christmas itself. Only two other tree species — the Great Basin bristlecone pine and the Patagonian cypress — have members older than the giant sequoia. These trees are only found in approximately 73 groves across 48,000 acres of Sierra Nevada territory. Most of the land these majestic behemoths grow on is in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite National Park .  The height and girth of one giant sequoia means this ancient type of tree is resilient. Its carbon-sequestering capacity makes it irreplaceable, which is why its long-term conservation is of poignant significance. It is also home to such endangered animals as the American marten, California spotted owl and Pacific fisher. “Old growth of any species , let alone the world’s largest trees, is extraordinarily rare,” explained Samuel Hodder, president and SEO of Save the Redwoods League. “There is precious little left of the natural world as we found it before the Industrial Revolution. Alder Creek is the natural world at its most extraordinary.” Alder Creek, located about 10 miles south of Yosemite National Park, is comparable in size and significance to the renowned Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Of the 1,200 acres of giant sequoia stands still held privately, Alder Creek is the largest, measuring about five times the size of other privately owned parcels. Alder Creek has been on land owned by the Rouch family since the 1940s. Claude Albert Rouch initially purchased the land for logging . While the family logged pine and fir for lumber, they made sure the giant sequoias remained unscathed. The deal has been under negotiation for the past 20 years, and the group has until the close of 2019 to garner the $15.6 million required to secure Alder Creek’s purchase. + Save The Redwoods League Via Times Standard Photography by Victoria Reeder via Save the Redwoods League

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Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

Hundreds of community climate action plans, yet few include forests

September 4, 2019 by  
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It’s about accounting for the forests and the trees.

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Hundreds of community climate action plans, yet few include forests

See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

August 6, 2019 by  
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We can all agree planting a tree is good for the environment — right? According to a recent study in Nature , the global crusade for reforestation as a remedy for climate change is largely missing the mark. So where did it go wrong? The new evidence reveals that most of the countries with large-scale tree-planting programs are actually developing tree plantations, which might help the economy but fail to sequester the carbon that the countries originally pledged to. The Bonn Challenge promises 350 million hectares of trees In 2011, the international Bonn Challenge was announced as an ambitious plan to plant 150 million hectares of trees by 2020. In 2014, more than 100 nations signed on under the New York Declaration of Forests, increasing the target to 350 million hectares by 2030. Unlike many lofty development goals, most countries are actually on track to exceed their promises, at least at first glance. In fact, the world actually has more forest cover now than it did in 1982. So, what’s the problem? Related: The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan Well, the majority of countries have been using the incentives and global momentum to back monoculture farms and counting trees that will be logged within years in their Bonn Challenge totals. According to the assessment, 45 percent of trees planted were species that will be quickly harvested for paper production. Another 21 percent were tree farm species, like fruits, nuts and cocoa . Only 34 percent of trees planted were part of so-called “natural forest,” even though the original intention of the Bonn Challenge was that all hectares planted should be natural forest. “Policymakers are misinterpreting the term forest restoration [and] misleading the public,” argued the study authors, Simon Lewis of Leeds University and Charlotte Wheeler from Edinburgh University. While agroforestry trees do provide important benefits to the environment and economy, monoculture plantations (especially when farmers clear natural forests for crops) fail to provide anywhere close to the same benefit in terms of sequestration and biodiversity . The value of natural forest A general definition of a natural forest is a “multilayered vegetation unit dominated by trees, whose combined strata have overlapping crowns, and where grasses are generally rare.” In general, a natural forest will store up to 40 times more carbon than a plantation that is harvested every decade. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being More than just trees , forests are important and intricate ecosystems. They are home to incredible biodiversity and provide sanctuary and habitat for thousands of species. They are also critical to the climate, because forests maintain rainfall and prevent desertification. Because clouds accumulate over forests, places that have destroyed all of their major forests often experience low rainfall, drought, desertification and other climate-related issues. Reforestation pledges around the world Even before the Bonn Challenge, China launched a massive reforestation program in response to flooding along the Yangtze River. Despite over two decades of reforestation, the report claims that 99 percent of all trees planted have been within monoculture plantations. Related: Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says In Niger, after years of complying with foreign and government extension officers who advised farmers to remove trees, farmers have finally argued that native trees serve an important purpose right where they are. Trees stabilize soil, produce nitrogen, buffer strong wind and improve organic matter in the soil. As a result of the farmers’ knowledge, deforestation has decreased, although the majority of farmers now wisely plant trees that will supplement their incomes rather than simply sequester seemingly abstract carbon. Yale Environment 360 reported that in Brazil, up to 82 percent of the forest restoration work is developing monoculture plantations and not natural forests. How to plant a forest? “Get out of the way.” According to National Geographic’s investigative article, “ How to regrow a forest: Get out of the way ,” even specific efforts by the U.S. Forest Department to plant natural forests have not worked the way they were intended to. For ease of planting and eventual use as lumber, the Forestry Department had a long-term tradition of planting native trees in neat rows at 12-foot gaps. Though the majority of trees were then left to develop into natural forests, the meticulous spacing has since exacerbated fire risk. The Department now opts for more irregular spacing and species biodiversity. Although it is more time- and cost-intensive, it ends up saving the department in firefighting costs later. Similarly, in Canada, a study found that a government campaign to drain wetlands thought to be smothering spruce trees caused a fire that destroyed 2,400 homes in 2016. Under the pretense of growing larger trees to store more carbon, peatlands were systematically destroyed. However, it is now recognized that peatlands ultimately store enormous amounts of carbon naturally and were more resilient to fires. “If you take the perspective that no matter what, more trees are better, that’s going to have unintended consequences,” said Sofia Faruqi from the World Resource Institute. “In the case of the West Coast, restoration may mean removing trees from the landscape.” Turning over a new leaf on reforestation pledges According to Faruqi, policies must acknowledge both what kind of tree is planted and how the tree “jibes with the larger health of the forest, the amount of water available or the needs of local people.” As we approach the start of the United Nation’s declared Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, many forestry experts agree that reforestation solutions must be localized — both at a national level and at the individual forest level. While the need for income, especially sustainably sourced income, is paramount, cash crop trees should be planted in addition to the 350 million acres of natural forest. Tropical forests are particularly important, because they have the potential to capture more carbon than any other forest type in the world. In many equatorial regions, where there are large amounts of land available and a high need for economic stimulation, healthy tropical forests can provide jobs, support indigenous traditions and capture an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 2 billion cars off the road every year. Blanket pledges of specific tree planting targets have not worked and leave the door open for damaging misinterpretation. More research and awareness is needed to understand the importance of different ecosystems and more priority given to protecting and keeping natural ecosystems intact. The idea that any tree planted helps is simply outdated and misleading. A quote by American poet, environmentalist and farmer Wendell Berry sums it up nicely: “Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.” + Nature Via Yale Environment 360 and National Geographic Images via Michael Benz , Marc Pell , Jesse Gardner , Janusz Maniak , Steven Kamenar and Zoer Ng

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See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

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