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Exploring Reforestation Strategies for Success

Published: April 4, 2024 by

Forests provide a rich variety of benefits – carbon sequestration and storage, fiber and food, cultural and spiritual resources, wildlife, water quality, and others. When forests are impacted by natural disturbances like hurricanes and wildfire, reforestation is critical to protect against potential forest loss and maintain the forest cover from which these benefits are derived. In addition to the question of where reforestation is needed to re-establish damaged forest cover, there are important questions of how to reforest. The US Forest Service sums it up well in the reforestation strategy for the National Forest System, “reforesting in the right place, at the right time, with the right species, and at appropriate scales can change the current trajectory.”[1]

Depending on the severity of a natural disturbance event, novel reforestation strategies might be needed to address challenges and barriers. For areas that have experienced severe wildfire, these challenges may include planting sites that are now more exposed to heat and potentially without sufficient seed banks, soil moisture, or soil resources. Additional challenges that have been well noted within the reforestation community include access to appropriate seeds from which seedlings can be grown, and the high cost of planting in wildfire impact areas.

 A novel strategy that has been explored to address some of these challenges is applied nucleation. A silvicultural practice shown to be successful for tropical forest restoration, applied nucleation combines tree planting and natural succession to restore and regrow forests. In the post-wildfire context, suitable microsites where site conditions are favorable to tree survival and growth can be targeted in a nucleation planting system to increase planting efficacy and reduce costs of operations. The hope for the future would be that these sites once re-established with forest cover, can serve as seed source for dispersal across more of the disturbance footprint.

As The Climate Trust grows our Reforestation Program, we will continue to partner with local experts to test and explore novel strategies to meet the critical need for reforestation across the U.S.

[1] USDA 2022, National Forest System Reforestation Strategy” Growing and Nurturing Resilient Forests, FS-1198