Afforestation

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Establishment of forest through planting and/or deliberate seeding on land that, until then, was under a different land use, implies a transformation of land use form non-forest to forest (FRA 2018[1]).

  1. Terms and definitions - FRA 2018
Afforestation is an old, dating from at least the beginning of the last century (Schlich, 1903[1]) but the practice is much older, at least to 1500s when the word first appeared in English. It is distinct from reforestation, which is the re-growth of forests after a temporary (< 10 years) condition with less than 10% canopy cover due to human-induced or natural perturbations (FAO[2]). There are at least 34 different definitions of afforestation; 20 implied a change in land cover and 14 specified a change in land cover and use (Lund, 1999[3]).The definition of afforestation differs by organization and by common usage. One of the most comprehensive and widely used definition is that by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) "Afforestation is the conversion from other land uses into forest, or the increase of the canopy cover to above the 10% threshold. Afforestation is the reverse of deforestation and includes areas that are actively converted from other land uses into forest through silvicultural measures. Afforestation also includes natural transitions into forest, for example on abandoned agricultural land or in burnt-over areas that have not been classified as forest during the barren period. As for deforestation, the conversion should be long-term, that is areas where the transition into forest is expected to last less than ten years, for example due to recurring fires, should not be classified as afforestation areas. The concept “long-term” is central in this definition and is defined as ten years. Local climatological conditions, land use contexts or the purpose of the analysis may however justify that a longer time frame is used" (FAO[2]).


Other organizations have defined afforestation somewhat differently. The main difference is the time that land has been in non-forest use. For example "The direct human-induced conversion of land that has not been forested for a period of at least 50 years to forest land through planting, seeding and/or the human-induced promotion of natural seed sources (UNFCCC 2001[4]). Afforestation has a negative connotation in some usage: (1) Government sponsored tree planting programs on common lands without regard for traditional use by local communities (Kanowski, 1997[5]; Overbeek et al., 2012[6]); (2) Single-species plantations, often of non-natives timber production or watershed protection (Dodet and Collet, 2012[7]); and  (3) Afforestation of native grasslands for land cleared for pasture (Veldman et al., 2015[8]; Veldman et al., 2017[9]). Opposition to afforestation for legitimate restoration of degraded land has arisen due to association with these practices.

  1. Schlich, W., 1903. The Afforestation of the Black Country. Nature 67, 395.
  2. 2.0 2.1 https://www.fao.org/forestry/18222-045c26b711a976bb9d0d17386ee8f0e37.pdf
  3. Lund, H.G., 1999. A `forest' by any other name…. Environmental Science & Policy 2, 125-133.
  4. http://www.unfccc.int/resource/docs/cop6secpart/l11r01.pdf
  5. Kanowski, P., 1997. Afforestation and plantation forestry Working Paper No.6. Australian National University, Canberra. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1885/40084
  6. Overbeek, W., Kröger, M., Gerber, J.-F., 2012. An overview of industrial tree plantation conflicts in the global South: conflicts, trends, and resistance struggles. EJOLT Reports. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/95586.
  7. Dodet, M., Collet, C., 2012. When should exotic forest plantation tree species be considered as an invasive threat and how should we treat them? Biological Invasions 14, 1765-1778.
  8. Veldman, J.W., Overbeck, G., Negreiros, D., Mahy, G., Le Stradic, S., Fernandes, G.W., Durigan, G., Buisson, E., Putz, F.E., Bond, W.J., 2015. Tyranny of trees in global climate change mitigation. Science 347, 484-485.
  9. Veldman, J.W., Silveira, F.A., Fleischman, F.D., Ascarrunz, N.L., Durigan, G., 2017. Grassy biomes: An inconvenient reality for large-scale forest restoration? A comment on the essay by Chazdon and Laestadius. American Journal of Botany 104, 649-651.