More planted forest!

The worlds planted forests should expand faster!

Seven percent of the forests are planted, 93% are natural. The pace of increase of planted forests has slowed down considerable. This is information from FAOs Forest Resource Assessment (FRA 2015). There seems to be good reasons for more planted forests and the slowing down seems unjustified.

FAO issued “Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015“, at . Currently 93% of forests are natural and 7% planted (or seeded).

Extending planted forest drops drastically
Annual increase of planted forests is shown in the figure.

The establishment of new planted forest has dropped dramatically to less than half in a decade. Only one country among the 20 most important has a positive trend. Why has this happened?

The figure shows the difference (growth) between the assessments as percentage annual increase (from Payn 2015 p58).

Examples of what FRA15 does not discuss

It is noted that little attention is given to this drop in new planted forest. FAOs FRA15 (p 20) lumps 2000-2010 together so the drop is less.

An important component for the increase in planted forest is “afforestation” but FRA15 mentions the word only once (p16) for explaining its importance and does not estimate annual afforestation and no-one else seem to give an estimate or respond on the question why no estimate is given.

Against planted forests and their expansion
For specific circumstances where are a multitude of good reasons against planted forests, but why and how have some of these reasons grown so much stronger in the last decade? No recent in depth analyses considering the drop shown by FRA15 seems to exist. More information about the reasons and structure of the drop is needed. Currently we can only speculate.

Added together the reasons against planted forest can hardly rationally explain the steep global reduction. An important reason for the drastic drop visualised in the figure may be phycological coupled to semantics. The concept “Plantation” raise suspicion, memories of colonialization and slavery, association to an intensive, alien and risky forest, and thus bad feelings  . FAO FRA15 mentions plantation only considering difficulties with LANDSAT classification) and uses planted forest instead. Sometimes planted forest is classified in semi-natural and plantation.

Only a limited share of the planted forest can be regarded as “plantations”, with a reasonable definition (which FAO has not made). A definition is needed as the concept “plantation” is still common, but “plantation” should not be used as a synonym to “planted forest”. It maybe a little less than a quarter of the planted forests. Planted forests can viewed at as consisting of semi-natural forests and plantations.

The reason for few new planted forests can be overexaggerating a multitude of concerns about social, trust in nature, ecological, pest risk, economic, silvicultural, diversity and similar problems connected to inefficient governance and lack of trust. Lack of motivation because the user does not get the reward for improvements. When rotation time is long, the return of investment in planting is low and uncertain. Social and political objections are likely to be raised, unless the political environment is supportive and likely to remain so. Local people sometimes feel that conversion to plantations in their neighbourhood has disadvantages. It seems to be assumed that planted forest means very intensive forestry established by capitalists in foreign countries who mainly think on return of investment rather than local people. Back to nature or trust in nature seems to be what is politically correct to a degree that widening the area of planted forests is abandoned. There seems to be a fascination with natural regeneration in the restoration community. Natural regeneration is attractive to politicians and bureaucrats because it seems “free”. In the summary report of the 3rd International Congress on Planted Forests (p2 paragraph c) “The congress emphasised that, as a matter of principle, planted forests should not replace natural forests”!! The world seems to have listened to the advice!

Advantages of planted forests and their expansion
Planted forests evidently can be a key to desirable forests. Half of the worlds roundwood production comes from planted forests. Certainly some “plantations” is a good thing. But they do not cover a large part of the planted forests and will not do in the foreseeable future. The fast- growing tree plantations “industrial plantations” make only 1% of word’s forests but cover 25% of world’s wood fibre demand. Global demand for wood is expected to more than triple by 2050. But new or improved forests are needed for other reasons than production. Erosion and avalanche risk is reduced. Hydrology become more balanced and flooding reduced. Many forest planting (afforestation, reforestation) projects fails due to various reasons. This results in lack of support for the future projects. Deforestation is undesirable and increased area with forests desirable. An important way to convert non-forest land to forest land is to establish new forest by planting or seeding. Forest restoration as well as ecosystem restoration often uses planting of seedlings or direct seeding which result in planted forests. Bigger production in tree plantations compared to the same area of natural forests reduces the pressure and harvest in natural forests. Planted forests offer socio-economic advantages. Societies can combine agriculture and forestry and agroforestry by planting trees. Access to near forests can mean less distance to get fire wood and construction material. Only a quarter of “natural forests” are “primary forest”, could not a larger fraction of the “other naturally regenerated forest” be converted into planted forest. Less than a fifth of the planted forest is with non-native species. For the native species supported by tree breeding the breeding population conserves a large share of the within species genetic variation. Planted forests have the potential to be improved by selecting seed source and intentional forest tree breeding, which also improves resilience and resistance against pests and make it easier to respond to new problems.

Man is dominating world. >90% of the biomass of all land animals is Man or domesticated animals. It when is inconsequent and difficult to understand why it is not tolerated that say 15% of the forest are planted (domesticated).

Half forest area is under a management plan and the area is distributed equally between production and conservation purposes. Thus production is half of half which is 25%, can it not when be tolerated with say 15% planted forest?

Well growing forests are important for reducing global warming, and planted forests have the potential to contribute considerable to that. Almost all nations have recently decided to drastically reduce their emissions of fossil carbon to the atmosphere. To catch and use carbon from photosynthesis in forests is a major part of the solution. Increased use of planted forests can be an important part.

Natural migration of many tree species will not be able to keep the pace with environment changes. Tree populations will be most vulnerable in the regeneration phase. The assisted migration cannot be done without a proper human intervention. The most likely way will be: appropriate selection – production and conditioning of the reproductive material – planting at the site within or outside the natural range, anticipated to be appropriate for next few decades by changed environment conditions. More breeding and more planting to establish “possible future refugia”, for some species. But also to keep the forest productivity.

Status according to FAO FRA15
“Planted forest area has increased by over 105 million ha since 1990 and accounts for 7 percent of the world’s forest area. The average annual rate of increase between 1990 and 2000 was 3.6 million ha. The rate peaked at 5.3 million ha per year for the period 2000–2010 and slowed to 3.2 million ha between 2010 and 2015, as planting decreased in East Asia, Europe, North America, South Asia and Southeast Asia. The largest area of planted forests is found in the temperate domain, accounting for 150 million ha, followed by the tropical and boreal domains with almost 60 million ha each. Over the last 25 years the area of planted forest has increased in all climatic domains, most notably in the boreal domain, where it has almost doubled.” “natural forest area will likely continue to decline, particularly in the tropics, primarily due to conversion of forest to agriculture”

FRA20. The process of obtaining FRA20 has started. It is a hope that the analysis of that – if the declining trend of converting land to planted forest remains – it will better explain why and what land is replaced by planted forest. It would also be desirable with more data on genetic improvement.

Recent or ongoing relevant discussion, organizations and literature

FAO runs a list on “Important meetings on planted forests”   Six activities 2018,,two activities 2017, four activities 2014-2016. The interest for planted forest seems on the raise since FRA2015, perhaps because of the alarming figures from FRA15. FRA15 was analysed in a special issue of Forest Ecology and Management.

An International Conference Working across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area – from Aspiration to Action was arranged FAO, Rome – 20-22 February 2018 aim; and summary:   In In “the conference in a nutshell, annex 1-3 the following two Global Forest Goals are bolded: “By 2020 … substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally.” and “Forest area is increased by 3% worldwide”  Evidently planted forest is most important for increasing forests area and reaching the goals. But the conference and its results were remarkable free of analyses of planted forest and its slow increase, the concept was hardly mentioned at all. Seems an evident sign that it not “politically correct” to focus on planted forest, which is the best tool to increase in forest area. But the organisation is not easy to get a discussion with.

A rather new organisation “New generation plantations”, seems as an initiative from WWF They give many and good arguments for planted forest and methods for increasing the area planted forest even in rather intensive forms and It is recently updated. It is noteworthy that the organization does not hesitate to sail under the “plantation” flag (“plantation” gives negative associations The organization is associated with WWF, thus under trustworthy environmental review. But the organisation is not easy to get a discussion with.

IUFRO has a task force “Sustainable Planted Forests for a Greener Future”  and a working party on stand establishment

The Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) is a proactive global network that unites governments, organizations, academic/research institutes, communities and individuals under a common goal: to restore the world’s lost and degraded forests and their surrounding landscapes. Specifically, the GPFLR responds directly to the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. The GPFLR was initiated in 2003 by a small consortium of like-minded organizations and spearheaded by IUCN.

Very little attention to reduced planting
Summing up: many organisations and much energy deals with encouraging and supporting restoration of deforested and degraded land, to get more area under forest cover, and to get a better forest, but still no-one seems to analyse in depth why planted forests as a remedy seems steeply declining since the organizations took initiative and it seems mentioned only rarely. The issue get remarkably little attention where it is mentioned compared with its significance for the efforts to get more and better forests.

REFORESTATION CHALLENGES 4th International Conference Belgrade, Serbia 20-22 June, 2018  at which the first version of what this blogg is a preparation for will be presented and it can also be seen as a first draft for an article which is planned to be submitted to Reforesta for publication after the conference.

In the autumn 2018 the conference “Planted Forests: a Solution for Green Development” – 4th International Congress on Planted Forests (ICPF) will take place 23.10.2018 – 27.10.2018 Beijing,China I hope for better discussions about the decline where!!!

Some suggestions if looking for information:

Payn et al  “Changes in Planted Forests and Future Global Implications.” Forest Ecology and Management 352 (September 2015): 57–67. (best covering review of FRA2015 concerning the state of planted forests.)

“Planted Forest Constitute a Strategic but Vulnerable Resources for Future Green Economy – Summary Report of the 3rd International Congress on Planted Forests,” May 2013.

Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Planted Forests   among the papers Payn, Tim, Jean Carnus, Peter Freer-Smith, Christophe Orazio, and Gert-Jan Nabuurs. “Third International Congress on Planted Forests: Planted Forests on the Globe – Renewable Resources for the Future.” New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science 44, no. Suppl 1 (2014): S1.

There have been significant studies on planted forests previously. These, for example, include data trends and projections (Carle and Holmgren, 2008), plantations, biodiversity and climate change (Pawson et al., 2013); the impact of planted forests on the global forest economy (Buongiorno and Zhu, 2014); timber investment (Cubbage et al., 2014); and multi-purpose plantations (Paquette and Messier, 2009).

Forest Expert Panel report on forests and food security also treats important related issues (Vira et al., 2015).

Presentations at International Conference Working across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area – from Aspiration to Action

Dag Lindgren,  first on web  180419, last edit 180525

6 thoughts on “More planted forest!”

  1. The “REDD” (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) process has been going on for the last decade, and its raise in importance seems to coincide with the decrease in planted forests. Could where be a connection?
    “A 45 strategic REDD document had only two hits on plant claiming its importance Deforestation and forest degradation account for around twenty-five percent of CO2 emissions. Approximately twothirds of this is sequestered by newly planted and recovering forests. When absorption of CO2 by newly planted and recovering forests is taken into account, land-use change (mainly deforestation and forest degradation) contributes around ten percent of CO2 emissions. ” And in my other comment I point at the possibility that net carbon release from forests in the world has already stopped,
    But REDD like other bodies avoids forest planting and discusses that industrial plantations take over natural forests “Some argue that this is opening the door to logging operations in primary forests, displacement of local populations for “conservation”, increase of tree plantations.” I believe there is too much worry that planted forest will influence negatively by replacing natural forests, and that is a reason REDD has not resulted in much planted forest.
    Reidar Persson describes at

  2. In my opinion the situation for the forests of the World is not so gloomy. The reduction of forest area and volyme globally is slowing down and may actually have stopped. The statistics of many countries is based on LANDSAT data and not very reliable and sometimes has overestimated deforestation . The deforestation decreases and statistics is not the latest so the current deforestation may be over-estimated. Much of the existing forest get “greener” thus denser and higher standing volume. Thus the overall deforestation of the World may soon be claimed to have stopped. Of course the situation is still bad in many areas.
    The World had probably almost double as much forest ten thousand years ago as now. The Swedish forest was at its minimum a century ago and has now doubled and thus recovered and the World as a whole may now pass its bottom and turn better .

  3. Only result from opening the comments is this. It seems impossible to get serious discussions about the Essentials of human survival.

  4. A reaction from a reader is forwarded

    Why is the expansion slowing? There can be other reasons than those mentioned. Less interest in investing now for a return much later. Lack of area onto which to expand.

    An interesting question is whether FAO or anyone else has made an analysis of why the expansion is slowing and what it means. The reasons are complex and need serious study. The lack of such a study would be noteworthy and justify some speculation on our part as we also call for a dedicated analysis.

    1 percent plantations may seem little but it is a global average. Locally, the proportion may be much higher and we know that some of those plantations were established a land from which the primary forest was cleared for this purpose, and provided the necessary investment capital. Indonesia seems to have much of this but also southern U.S. Certain types of ecosystems have been converted at a high proportion to establish plantations.

    It may be useful to more clearly separate the different types of forest that are brought together under the umbrella term ‘planted”.

    Expanding forest area through planting is expensive. “Natural” regeneration – i.e., management of ecological memory – is probably a more realistic alternative for large-scale expansion, as the need for capital is less and the risk also less. I don’t think it is right to exclude louintensity approaches from consideration. A proper mix is needed.

    New Generation Plantations is indeed by WWF but I think it is widely accepted as a good initiative. NGOs , other than extreme ones like WRM, accept that well-managed plantations are needed.

    There may be a policy lag at work. Bilaterals and multilaterals invested heavily in plantations in the 70 s. The results were apparently so disappointing that they not only stopped but are embarrassed and don’t want to talk about it. Decision makers learned that plantations are bad and they don’t want to unlearn, especially since non-forest investments are competing for attention. This is why WWF talks about “new generation” plantations.

    But all in all, it is right to note the diminishing expansion rate and analyze its reasons and consequences. The lack of attention to this issue is in itself noteworthy.

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