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Green Deal: 3,000 million trees by 2030

A plan that could increase the risk of fires if not carried out according to good planning

Forests are large "carbon sinks" and contribute greatly to compensating for the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For this reason, policies to preserve and restore them are widely supported and seen as an effective way to combat climate change. The European Union, in line with the objectives of the Green Deal, is committed to restoring forests through various initiatives, one of which is to plant 3,000 million trees by 2030. A team of researchers from Creaf (Spain ), Ctfc (Spain), InBIO/Cibio (Portugal), University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and Csic stated that excessive reforestation could increase the risk of fires if not carried out according to good planning and scientific criteria. The article "Tree-planting: a double-edged sword to fight climate change in an era of megafires" recently published in Global Change Biology explains that in the era of great forest fires, reforestation can be a double-edged sword. to combat climate change.

Drought and extremely hot or windy climatic conditions cause an increase in high intensity fires, already evident in the Mediterranean basin, and increasingly frequent in other northern areas of Europe. For this "it is essential to plan very well how and where these plantations will be made, that is, which species will be treated and how they will be managed". According to Lluís Brotons, a researcher at Creaf and Csic, "these aspects are fundamental if we are to succeed in reforestation and avoid the risks associated with large forest fires". Virgilio Hermoso, researcher at Ctfc, points out that "we do not question the use of plantations, but we must plan them correctly so as not to cause the opposite effect to what we are looking for. The increase in connectivity of the forest, on a landscape scale, together the use of species that are often used in plantations (fast-growing and with flammable resins), can increase the risk of fires, especially if this is not accompanied by adequate forest management".

Researchers propose alternatives that could be as effective or more effective than this reforestation plan. An example of this is habitat diversification or the recovery of wetlands and pastures, especially in some regions of southern Europe. Both actions would help compensate for the loss of natural habitats, which have declined sharply in recent decades due to land abandonment and forest expansion. Researchers argue that investing in restoring these other habitats would be more efficient than planting trees in drier and more fire-prone regions, such as the Mediterranean, where water availability is limited.

The first proposed targets for the Convention on Biological Diversity to be agreed in 2021 include the restoration of 350 million hectares of deforested and degraded land around the world. Globally, priority should be given to areas that have been subjected to high levels of deforestation in recent decades, such as the tropics; always bearing in mind that the restoration of forests cannot replace the reduction of direct emissions of greenhouse gases, the priority and most effective action to combat climate change.

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EFA News - European Food Agency