It is sometimes necessary to use tree planting to restore lost forest or to reconnect areas of forest habitat.
Currently WLT is working with Nature Kenya in Kenya to plant trees in the Mount Kenya Forest Reserve, Naturaleza y Cultura Ecuador (NCEcuador) in Ecuador to plant trees in the Nangaritza Reserve and with Reserva Ecológica de Guapi Assu (REGUA) to plant trees in the Reserva Ecologica de Guapi Assu in Brazil.
In the future, tree planting supported by WLT may be extended to further partner organisations in other countries.
The aim of the Plant a Tree appeal is to support planting of native trees to reconnect fragmented habitat and provide additional food sources for bird and animal populations.
Mount Kenya Forest is one of Kenya’s key biodiversity sites, and an extremely important water catchment area supplying the Tana and Northern Ewaso Ng’iro systems. It is located on the equator 180 kilometres north of Nairobi. The colonial government declared Mount Kenya's forests a Forest Reserve in 1932. In 1949, a National Park was created within the Forest Reserve. In 1978, Mount Kenya became a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme. The biosphere reserve and the surrounding natural forests within the Forest Reserve were listed as a World Heritage site in 1997. In July 2000, the forest was gazetted as a National Reserve. The indigenous forest planting site sits just outside the boundaries of the World Heritage Site, but within the state owned Forest Reserve in areas previously deforested and used for commercial plantations. Mount Kenya is very rich in all forms of biodiversity, plants and animals.
The Nangaritza Valley is a highly biodiverse watershed protecting foothill forests that are part of the Podocarpus-El Condor Biosphere Reserve. Here can be found some of the highest levels of plant diversity in the world including some fragile areas that have never been explored by scientists and are at risk of exploitation by illegal loggers and miners.
Reserva Ecológica de Guapi Assu
REGUA was officially formed in 2001 by Nicholas Locke. The reserve was originally a farm, which had been in the Locke family since 1915. When Nicholas became the owner he was keen to create a reserve as he witnessed the ongoing devastation of the forests around him. He is restoring forest and wetland that had been lost previously and buying more forest as funds become available, to add to the Reserva Ecológica de Guapi Assu (REGUA).
REGUA is situated only 80km North-East of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in the Serra dos Órgãos Mountains. The reserve spans from around 30 metres above sea level at the wetland areas up to 2000 metres, thus providing a range of unique habitats and it is one of the last locations where original Atlantic Forest remains intact at all altitudes.
WLT’s partner organisations use a mixture of tree planting and assisted natural regeneration to protect and re-establish habitats.
Habitats can often regenerate naturally if certain barriers are removed or controlled, for example stopping cattle grazing, limiting fire, or removing invasive species.
Where tree planting is necessary, funding from WLT’s Plant a Tree appeal supports a process that begins, in many reserves, with the collection of seeds from forest trees to raise in the reserve’s nursery.
Trees selected for planting are a mixture of native species that grow naturally in nearby, established forest.
Once the saplings are planted out on the reserve, they are checked and monitored to ensure successful establishment.
Growth is usually fast, and fruiting species provide a food source for wildlife within a couple of years.
Planting programmes use native pioneer species which are quick to establish and can shade out competition from invasive grasses, for example, and restore soil condition.
Pioneer species are mixed with slower growing second stage trees of particular biodiversity value to enrich the species mix of second stage natural regeneration under the pioneer cover.
Monitoring has shown, in Brazil in particular, an immediate positive impact on avifauna. The trees planted are a mix of species found in the surrounding primary forest.
Tree planting enables WLT’s partner organisations to join up fragmented forests, creating a continuous habitat for birds and other mammals.
For wide ranging animals, a large territory is essential as it gives them room to hunt, forage and avoid conflict with people.
Linking fragmented areas of forest can also help strengthen a species’ gene pool, by allowing separated populations to meet.
Nature reserves funded by WLT are rich in biodiversity, yet much of the habitat has previously been degraded and fragmented by agriculture, timber extraction or infrastructure for human habitation.
Small patches of fragmented forest are particularly vulnerable.
For example, species diversity is reduced, fewer animal and invertebrate pollinators are present and a high proportion of the trees are subject to encroaching vegetation on the forest boundary. So even if this habitat is turned into a protected nature reserve, it will continue to degrade unless it is successfully managed.
Many tree planting projects fail because there is no strict maintenance and monitoring process in place to secure the long-term success of the reforestation.
This is largely because it is labour intensive, time consuming, and costs money. But without a long-term maintenance plan, tree planting can be futile.
All WLT's partner organisations implement a comprehensive maintenance and monitoring plan to ensure that the saplings grow well for at least 10 years, after which the trees are deemed to be mature and natural mortality rates will be low.