Trees are natural resources that provide various social, economic, and ecological services. Unfortunately, this leads to insuppressible logging activities, both legal and illegal. This has caused massive deforestation in the country, decreasing our forest cover from 70% to only about 20%.
A recently passed bill, the “Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act,” aims to address this issue by requiring students from elementary to college to plant 10 trees before they graduate. The bill theoretically aims to plant about 175M trees a year, given the current number of students. This proposed bill also addresses issues regarding carbon emission mitigation and the deforestation issues that plague the country.
It is imperative, however, that certain factors are taken into account when this mass tree planting occurs: area, species planted, and the process by which these trees are planted. Why is this important? Improper tree planting may cause more harm than good.
A common misconception in tree planting is that any area without trees can be planted on. The problem is, there are certain ecosystems that require minimal trees. The animals grazing in these ecosystems require grazing areas and minimal shade. This happened in Uruguay where incentives were given to citizens who plant trees. Consequently, residents started planting on grasslands, thinking that these are open spaces for trees which will result in economic gain due to the sold lumber and other wooden products. This disrupted the ecosystem’s equilibrium and the different interactions within it, thus decreasing the number of species in the area.
A local example of ill-managed tree planting activities is the country’s National Greening Program where the DENR aimed to plant 1.5B trees around the country by 2016. The program, albeit noble in its cause, is problematic because of its use of mahogany and other exotic species of trees. Mahogany is a fast-growing tree that requires minimal maintenance which is why it was preferred by the DENR. Here’s the problem: Mahogany plants, due to its high survivability properties, can change the properties of the soil where they are planted, adjusting its pH value to suit itself. Because of this, native plants like Narra, cannot grow and are stunted due to the change in their natural environment. Narra trees are endemic and are considered vulnerable; and with the introduction of Mahogany in its environment, the Narra’s survivability is compromised. Aside from adjusting the soil property, Mahogany is not favored by animals which basically ensures that Mahogany forests become dead zones for biodiversity and lead to monoculture forests.
In spite of all of these, tree planting can still benefit the environment because it provides raw materials for our daily lives. Trees also act as carbon sinks and are homes to various birds. It is imperative, however, that these events are planned properly as to not compromise our balanced ecosystems.
Main Photo: Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash