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2021/02/09 London, United Kingdom
Greening measures through afforestation and reforestation are applied worldwide as trees play an essential role in our ecosystem. Tree planting, if not done properly, however, can threaten other ecosystem services such as those that ensure water security. BBC Radio’s Inside Science asked several experts in the field to provide their perspective on the topic and to introduce practical examples.
Dr Zhang presented a case study from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), shedding light on a crucial aspect to be considered when planning afforestation. Even though a certain species of trees seems to achieve the desired outcome, planting them without caution can cause serious problems. To stabilise and neutralise the soil, in its major greening campaign, the PRC’s government chose to plant the black locust in monocultures, without considering its high demand for irrigation. This resulted in water shortages for both human use and agriculture. Sustainable and integrated forest management can help avoid similar consequences, said Zhang.
Dr Zhang’s research at UNU aims to unlock the potential of land to produce food, energy, and clean water, and to store carbon in meeting future demand without further depleting finite natural resources. In an article in The Conversation, she highlighted the importance of considering implications not just for the land but also for water when engaging in foresting measures, looking at the case of the PRC.