A Conversation for Planting Trees

Trees and Grassland

Post 1


Hello MVP! I'm happy you're doing something about climate change. I just want to say a thing or two. Yes, trees are good at storing carbon. But so are grasses and the other plants that grow with them! Especially natural, ancient grasslands can store great amounts of carbon. They store more carbon below the ground (in the form of roots, bulbs, tubers, etc.), while trees store more carbon above the ground. Here in South Africa, we even have 'underground forests' ... they look like grasslands, with only low plants and grasses, but underneath the surface there's a huge amount of woody growth. All of this stores carbon! In some places grasslands get little respect, and have been extensively destroyed, making way for farms or even for tree plantations, here in South Africa for instance now a lot of our natural grassland has been put under pine and eucalypt trees. And that's actually bad ... the trees do store carbon, but the plantations are far less biodiverse than the grasslands they replaced were. Wild grassland here, I would say consist of only about 30%-50% of grasses, by volume, the rest being herbs, bulbous plants, low shrubs, of a huge diversity of kinds, and many of them restricted to small regions, so that replacing them with trees has led to numerous species now becoming very rare and even a few extinctions.

THe thing is, what needs to be protected is the natural vegetation of every place. The wild plants are the ones best suited to growing there and in any wild, pristine place, most plants will be ancient and will have been storing carbon for a long time. So we need old-growth forests, ancient grasslands, deserts, shrublands, with their natural plants, wherever they are, and we need to try to rehabilitate as much land as possible back to that.

Trees and Grassland

Post 2


Oh ... and ecologists will know this sort of stuff so it's great to work in consultation with them!

Trees and Grassland

Post 3

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Post Editor

Excellent point, Willem! smiley - smiley Nobody in the US should ever forget the nightmare of destroying vast swathes of native grassland. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was caused by just such lack of ecological insight.

The area where I live has survived some really severe abuse. In the mid-19th Century, there was heavy timbering, especially pine trees. Amazingly, the forests have come back strong. The 'oil boom' polluted the streams, but the rivers have recovered, as well. In fact, the Clarion (=Nighthoover) River was named the Pennsylvania 'River of the Year' last year. Animals once thought extinct in the area have returned.

I suspect that England could really use more trees, though.

Here's an interesting (though funny) video I found about forests in England:


And here's one on Cook Forest, which is in our backyard:


Trees and Grassland

Post 4


Thank you for your interesting replies to my piece.smiley - smiley

But I think Dmitri is right and England has lost a lot of its forest. I thought one of the culprits was the shipbuilding industry: apparently it took 1000 oaks to build a warship.

Trees and Grassland

Post 5


Yeah I think England would naturally be mainly forest. Did you check Dmitri's videos? The first is quite enlightening about European forests.

Here in South Africa we have forests that are pretty close to primeval ... they haven't been interfered with in any major way for hundreds (at least) of years. Before Europeans and tropical African peoples arrived, from the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries, the country had a small population of Khoi-San peoples, and they didn't really make any use of the forests like the old Europeans did, since those forests were too small and hosted far less game than the plains did. So they left them alone. When the Europeans came, they logged the more accessible forests ... but not clear cutting, they selectively cut the desirable trees which were only a few species, such as yellowwood, ironwood, stinkwood and Matumi. But they could only do that with some of the forests, many forests grow on such steep, rugged, mountainous land that it's too difficult to exploit them. So those forests were not disturbed. They're still there and I've been to some of them. You get all those things: a mix of trees, most of which aren't 'useful' trees for humans, a mix of ages - young trees, to trees a thousand years old and more - and lots of undergrowth, lots of fallen trees and stumps, lots of fungi, etc, the whole deal really looks primeval. And the big trees aren't just big, they have character, they're not your typical nice straight-growing clean-boled trees, they are contorted in all sorts of ways, they've clearly seen some stuff in their lives.

Trees and Grassland

Post 6

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Post Editor

'they've clearly seen some stuff in their lives.' smiley - ok

I'll bet!

MVP, you're right - any country that had a big navy in the days of sail used up a lot of forests, especially for masts.

I'm going to tell a story about the timbering in this area as part of the November project - I even have pictures.

Trees and Grassland

Post 7

paulh, the apocalypse is coming, it's just late

"I think England would naturally be mainly forest." [Willem]

Well, the ice ages killed a lot of trees. And we humans move stuff around. And the use of oil and coal spared trees, so they began growing back.

In a normal forest, clearings are in the process of becoming forest again, and parts of the deep forest sometimes become clearings again. beavers can create a clearing. Disease or drought can make trees in an area unable to survive.

it's complicated. Climate changes happen -- more rain here, less there. Beech forests migrated south to get away from the advancing ice sheets, but when they reached the Alps, they couldn't survive the higher altitudes.

It's complicated.

If there's a spot where trees would do nicely, try planting some. It's not an exact science.

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