Reforesting is a good idea, but it is necessary to know where and how

An international group of ecologists contests an article published in Science, which among other cardinal errors proposed ‘reforestation’ of the Cerrado, Brazil’s savanna biome

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

An article recently published in Science, entitled “The global tree restoration potential”, presents what it calls “the most effective solution at our disposal to mitigate climate change”. The lead author is Jean-François Bastin, an ecologist affiliated with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).

The article attracted enormous media attention. It reports the results of a study in which Bastin and collaborators used remote sensing and modeling techniques to estimate that forest restoration in areas totaling 900 million hectares worldwide could store 205 gigatonnes of carbon.

The study was contested by a large international group of ecologists led by Joseph Veldman, a professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management (USA). At the invitation of the editors of Science, the group formulated a reply, now featuring on the October 18th edition of Science under the title “Comment on ‘The global tree restoration potential’..

Its authors include William Bond, Emeritus Professor in the University of Cape Town’s Department of Biological Sciences (South Africa) and considered the world’s foremost expert on savanna ecology. Several Brazilian researchers also co-authored the reply, such as Giselda Durigan, affiliated with the São Paulo State Forestry Institute’s Ecology and Hydrology Laboratory.

“The plan proposed by Bastin et al. is based on flawed calculations and is actually a threat to the planet’s savannas, meadows and water resources,” Durigan said.

Bastin and collaborators made “extremely basic mistakes,” she added, such as including among reforestable areas Yellowstone National Park in the US, Los Llanos in Venezuela (considered one of the world’s most important ecosystems), and the Cerrado in Brazil.

The Cerrado is the world’s most biodiverse tropical savanna and gives rise to some of Brazil’s major rivers, such as the Xingu, Tocantins, Araguaia, São Francisco, Parnaíba, Gurupi, Jequitinhonha, Paraná and Paraguay, among others.

“Unfortunately the key premises used in the study and the calculations performed by the authors are incorrect, resulting in a fivefold overestimation of the potential for forest planting to capture carbon and mitigate climate change,” Durigan said. “Furthermore, Bastin et al. included in the map of lands with potential for reforestation many areas in which trees would reduce surface albedo and intensify global warming. Worse still, they propose forest planting in almost all areas of grassland and tropical and subtropical savanna in the world.”

Albedo is the amount of solar energy reflected by Earth’s surface. The darker the surface, the less sunlight it reflects and the more it absorbs. The solar energy absorbed is converted into heat. Forest absorbs far more solar energy than open grassland. When a meadow is transformed into forest, the area absorbs more energy and can contribute to global warming.

Moreover, science has demonstrated that an increase in tree biomass impairs water production in river basins because rain is largely retained by the canopy and the trees consume large amounts of water to survive.

In sum, reforestation is an excellent idea but it is necessary to know where and how to implement it. The topic is complex and involves multiple parameters and variables, all of which the authors of an article in Science should know.

“Bastin and collaborators focused too narrowly on the carbon balance, and to make matters worse they miscalculated by underestimating the carbon trapped in the ground under open vegetation, while overestimating the capacity of trees to store carbon,” Durigan said.

“The article has undermined a good idea by being overambitious and grandiose. Many areas that once had forests and are now degraded could indeed be reforested with very positive results, but this would require far more judicious selection of areas, taking into account all the knowledge acquired to date, which goes well beyond the data obtained by remote sensing and modeling.”

Grasslands and savannas are natural formations but are treated as degraded areas in the article.

“They overlooked the fact that climate isn’t the only natural variable affecting biomass in ecosystems. They also ignored recent research showing that large-scale tree planting in grasslands and savannas can have highly negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services in these more open landscapes, which have been maintained for millions of years by natural fire and herbivory regimes,” she said.

In Durigan’s opinion, the article by Bastin et al. drew exceptional attention because it pleased large corporations and countries that benefit from fossil fuel burning to drive their economies. “If the world believes the arguments presented in the article, the pressure for corporations to reduce fossil fuel emissions will be considerably weakened,” she said.


About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at and visit FAPESP news agency at to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at

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October 20, 2019 10:17 am

It seems there’s no end to colonialist European researchers who want to reforest other countries’ open areas instead of their own. I know bad habits are hard to break, but c’mon guys/gals, this is the 21st century.

Reply to  icisil
October 20, 2019 10:52 am

Exactly. It ain’t their land to reforest or do anything else with.

Reply to  Gamecock
October 20, 2019 4:02 pm

well I’ll be darned…CO2 does cause global warming

” Forest absorbs far more solar energy than open grassland. When a meadow is transformed into forest, the area absorbs more energy and can contribute to global warming.”

“From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide,”

Reply to  Latitude
October 20, 2019 11:25 pm

As always, extreme measures have serious negative effects. Proposing extreme measures to solve a non existent problem is the blowback you get for lying about what the real reason hiding behind the false problem is.

If you want a non elected world govt. at the UN to redistribute the wealth of developed countries, just say so instead of lying. We’ll see how good you arguments for that are.

Reply to  icisil
October 20, 2019 11:47 am

Justin (Dances with Unicorns) Trudeau has promised to plant two billion new trees if he wins the election. link I’m all for it. It’s about the least bad thing he could do. Anyway, tree planting is something like a rite of passage in Canada.

Tree planting is grueling work. It makes people understand things about themselves and the environment that they would never understand otherwise. It’s good for the national character.

Reply to  commieBob
October 20, 2019 12:29 pm

Don’t trees replant themselves in Canada? They do so in virtually the entire eastern US. You can’t keep property from becoming forest unless you mow it.

Reply to  icisil
October 20, 2019 12:46 pm

They do, but tree planters generally work in logged areas that have been clearcut. Rather than wait for the length of time it would take to reforest naturally, the planters go in. It shortens the time from meadow to deciduous trees to conifers.

Reply to  MonnaM
October 20, 2019 1:24 pm

In most of Canada, where there is commercial forestry (mostly Crown lands), it’s already required – by law – that the area returns to forest. Usually that means tree planting, except in areas like poplar dominated forests that naturally regenerate without the need to plant trees. So Trudeau’s plan only makes sense on private lands that have been degraded, or made into agricultural land. Then it’s simply a subsidy to wealthy landowners. A lot of agricultural land resulted from clearing forests or draining wetlands – usually with the aid of government subsidies. Now the Trudeau government is proposing more subsidies to revert what they subsidized in the first place. It’s madness.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  MonnaM
October 21, 2019 4:11 am

If the logging companies don’t replant seedlings after “clear cutting” ….. then they are effectively “putting themselves out of business”

Reply to  icisil
October 20, 2019 12:54 pm

Nature abhors a vacuum. Can barely stop it growing back to a forest of some type if left alone. Planting the more valuable species along with the hardiest genetic disposition is done to max out future value. I have planted millions of trees in my lifetime on thousands of acres of land I manage for timber. Sometimes leaving it to regenerate naturally will work, although usually we get a lot of inferior commercial species like Aspen or Willow, which choke out the more valuable the conifers. Or in the East, hardwoods like Oak, Maple, and more exotic valuable deciduous like Walnut will be worth more than natural regeneration. Woodlot management is the key to a healthy forest and ecosystem for animals/water and humans. I can’t think of anything negative about trees/forests, except they grow so fast under power lines and really crimp our style with power outages or fires.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 20, 2019 1:26 pm

You said it better than I did.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 20, 2019 1:28 pm

So do people who plant trees with the belief that they’re “doing it for the earth” not realize that they’re really doing it for the corporations that will harvest those more valuable trees someday? That’s the impression I get.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 20, 2019 2:55 pm

icicil…I am doing it hoping to get rich. I am the corporation as are many thousands of other small woodlot owners with a few hundred or thousands of acres of private forest. It costs me me about $1 to plant a tree, and maybe half that if I do it myself although my tree planting days are over as it is back busting work. It is easier to just hire university students in the spring to get the planting done.

I wish I could talk the corrections branch into ‘borrowing’ me a chain gang of prisoners to plant trees for the benefit of civilization. Or all these homeless folk squatting on the streets of our beautiful cities…they could really be put to a good use for the benefit of humanity. Or all these kids that want to save the planet…well do I ever have a job for them.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 20, 2019 3:39 pm

Sure, I understand the concept. I’m continuously improving my woods by removing marginal stuff (poplar, pine, sweet gum, box elder, leaning, twisted, damaged, leggy, etc) and leaving the good (oak, maple, cherry, beech, elm, etc). What I’m curious about is where does the money from eco do-gooders go, who see commercials or ads saying that if they buy this or donate that, some number of trees will be planted, or some percentage of sales will be given to a tree planting org? Where are those trees planted? In places from where they eventually will be harvested? If that’s the case, then a lot of people are really being suckered. They’re just subsidizing someone else’s business.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Earthling2
October 21, 2019 4:24 am

my tree planting days are over as it is back busting work.

I planted 10 thousand spruce seedlings ….. but I was riding behind a tractor on a “seedling planter”.

On steep mountainsides, an LCG tractor or a bulldozer would have to be used.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  icisil
October 20, 2019 1:19 pm

You are correct, mostly, about the eastern USA. My grandparents farm was in western Pennsylvania. However, northern Canada is very different, see:

Historical Aspects of the Northern Canadian Treeline HARVEY NICHOLS (late ’70s paper)

ABSTRACT From palynological studies it appears that northernmost dwarf spruces of the tundra and parts of the forest-tundra boundary may be relicts from times of prior warmth, and if felled might not regenerate. This disequilibrium may help explain the partial incongruence of modern climatic limits with the present forest edge. Seedlings established as a result of recent warming should therefore be found within the northernmost woodlands rather than in the southern tundra.

Reply to  icisil
October 20, 2019 1:36 pm

Tree planting is a business in Canada. An accomplished planter on easy ground can plant nearly 10,000 seedlings per day, and a beginner on difficult terrain might plant a tenth of that. Timber companies next contract includes last years replanting contract value.

There is forest in the Eastern US, and there is scrub, and there are many years slipping by from scrub to forest.

Reply to  commieBob
October 20, 2019 12:52 pm

Planting trees is no use unless you look after them till they are established, something people tend to forget. Rabbits and deer have no respect for the environment.

Reply to  Susan
October 20, 2019 1:38 pm

Seedlings are planted in protective tubes taller than the rabbit can reach. By the time the seedling overtops its tube it is well protected from deer by easier pickings undergrowth.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 20, 2019 5:01 pm

“Doug Huffman October 20, 2019 at 1:38 pm
Seedlings are planted in protective tubes taller than the rabbit can reach. By the time the seedling overtops its tube it is well protected from deer by easier pickings undergrowth.”

Total fantasy.
Deer eat browse as high as they can stand if it is tasty.
Deer killed a number of trees I planted, including English Walnut. They treated the English walnut trees like candy and ate right up to the main stem.

Tree guard fencing must be wide enough that pheasants can’t reach the buds by sticking their heads through the fencing. The same goes for grouse, but their necks tend to be shorter than pheasants.
It gets easier the second and third year trees because I can trim all side branches but the central leader until the branching is above five-six feet. Doesn’t stop the deer, but does make it hard for ground based small browsers.

Rabbits may browse some, but mostly when grazing is not available or not as tasty.

Deer browse non stop. Deer graze occasionally, but they are browsers first and foremost.
They’ll clean off tender buds, stems and branches right up to last years woody growth.

Right now, deer stand on their hind feet to eat my still green persimmons.
Can’t reach the persimmon? They’ll eat the buds and leaves.

Male deer love the young willowy trees. Especially those under ten to fifteen years old. That way when the buck is working off his velvet, he feels like he is really giving the little tree a thrashing.
They beat the tar out of my pussy willow bush every year. If I let the pussy willow grow too tall, my wife can’t get cuttings when the buds begin to break.

I used to have two azaleas on the sides of my picture windows. One is gone now. Too many years of deer defrocking the thing because they can reach it from the woods without passing in front of windows. The azaleas suffer most in cold snowy winters.

What those plastic tree tubes are good for is keeping zealous weed wackers from girdling trees, easily.
Metal rods hammered in next to the plants works better to keep fools from mowing them.
Landscapers get excited when their cheap laborers get the mowers stuck on top of metal rods. Makes an awful racket and dings up the steel rods. The mowers don’t mow as good afterwards.

Rabbits are problem solvers. If they can work out a way to get higher, e.g. branches they can jump to, they’ll eat that bark anyway.

One day, taking a walk through my favorite wineberry patch, I heard an awful racket coming from a young tree over my head.
When I saw it was large, brown and furry I stepped away from the tree.
I watched as a goundhog (Woodchuck, whistle pig, ‘Marmota monax’) slowly worked it’s way down the tree.
The person, I was walking with, said something, and the groundhog panicked, falling the last six feet to the ground. Seconds later, that same person I was sharing my wineberry patch secret with, informed me that if I dared to tell anyone, she would deny seeing a groundhog in a tree.

I couldn’t think of a reason a large woodchuck would be up in a tree, except to eat. I didn’t bother climbing the tree to look for cut leaves or branches.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 21, 2019 4:37 am

Seedlings are planted in protective tubes taller than the rabbit can reach.

Yup, that is a “must” if only planting a few trees around your property. ….. but not when planting 10K to 100K seedlings.

I had to use small opening “page wire” to protect my peach trees from beavers.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 21, 2019 9:40 am

I’m sure you know what you are doing, it’s the well-meaning amateurs that worry me.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Doug Huffman
October 21, 2019 1:23 pm

ATheoK October 20, 2019 at 5:01 pm

I couldn’t think of a reason a large woodchuck would be up in a tree, except to eat.

AAAH, just the opposite, …….. a groundhog will climb a tree to keep from being eaten by a predator. It surely heard you coming toward it but couldn’t seek safety in a hole in the ground, so up the tree it went.

Reply to  commieBob
October 21, 2019 12:37 am

“Dances with Unicorns” just needs to find suitable areas for his trees that aren’t already slated for planting as a part of normal post-harvest reforestation. I would like to suggest Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. In the Mongol tradition those cesspools of citiots could be razed and put to some use other than real estate speculation.

October 20, 2019 10:22 am

The road to hell is paved with good intentions – or stupid scientists. I’m not sure which really applies here

Reply to  Mondeoman
October 20, 2019 10:36 am

Paving the road to hell with stupid scientists is a really good intention 🙂

Reply to  Leon Palmer
October 20, 2019 12:18 pm

ignorant with egos and hubris with be a better descriptor than simply stupid.

So… more trees (forests) or fewer trees (smaller forests). These folks can’t even agree on basic things and claim the other side is making basic errors. The only thing they can agree on of course is their desire for more grant money to study their chosen fields. They also agree that “Orange Man bad” simply because he ignores their bleating and whining.

So if basic research from many environmental scientists/biologists/biogeochemists can’t even agree if more trees or less trees in toto would be better for climate change mitigation, how can any of these “experts” even comment on the climate change at all?

“Science is a belief in the ignorance of the experts.”
– Richard Feynman

John McClure
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 20, 2019 12:56 pm

“In combination, our corrections for SOC and corrections to avoid the unintended consequences of misguided tree planting (i.e., warming and biodiversity loss with afforestation) would reduce Bastin et al.’s estimate of potential carbon sequestration by a factor of 5, to the still-substantial amount of ~42 GtC (Table 1). Although ecological restoration, if carefully implemented, can have a role in mitigating climate change, it is no substitute for the fact that most fossil fuel emissions will need to stop to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement (15). Such action should be accompanied by policies that prioritize the conservation of intact, biodiverse ecosystems, irrespective of whether they contain a lot of trees.”

No ignorance in this unless you can prove with a proper response.

Reply to  John McClure
October 20, 2019 2:09 pm

Their Paris Agreement statement is simply Appeal to Authority ill-logic. It has nothing to do with any of the work within their own fields.

Claiming your colleague results are off by a factor of 5 demonstrates the huge uncertainties in their field.
Finally, their “policies that prioritize the conservation of intact, biodiverse ecosystems,” is so trivially uncontroversial that they throw it in to make it appear they understand what they are doing in their field of study.

Kristi Silber
Reply to  John McClure
October 20, 2019 7:31 pm

Joel O’Bryan,

“Claiming your colleague results are off by a factor of 5 demonstrates the huge uncertainties in their field.”

No, it demonstrates the willingness of scientists to criticize each other’s work, as long as it’s backed up by evidence. Pointing out errors is a good thing.

“… they throw it in to make it appear they understand what they are doing in their field of study.” Ah, so that’s the reason. I didn’t catch that – but then, I’m not omniscient, as you appear to be.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  John McClure
October 21, 2019 12:23 am

“Kristi Silber October 20, 2019 at 7:31 pm

No, it demonstrates the willingness of scientists to criticize each other’s work, as long as it’s backed up by evidence. Pointing out errors is a good thing.”

Except if your name is Peter Ridd (Dr.) formerly of the JCU, Queensland, Australia.

Mike McHenry
October 20, 2019 10:35 am

There are plenty deserts and arid lands. Oh I guess I’ll get the albedo argument. However it’s well known that north Africa was quite green abt 6000 years ago. Yes you would need massive number of desalination plants. That sounds cheap compared to the insanity of decarbonizing. Biodiversity should greatly increase and it would be very beneficial to the locals

Mark Broderick
October 20, 2019 10:39 am

They don’t really care about “climate change”, they just want the destruction of civilized society..

Mark Broderick
October 20, 2019 10:41 am

The “Green” road is paved with stupid scientists from hell !

October 20, 2019 10:43 am

As I think the Brazilian leader said back to Macron….Europe needs to step up and regrow its primeval forest before it lectures the world.

All that low-productivity, highly tariff-protected farming in France needs to be set aside to grow trees, if the French are serious about asking the Brazilians to do the same.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  kwinterkorn
October 20, 2019 12:51 pm

The French use a lot of wood for domestic heating. The last couple of years in Limousin where I am based they’ve been cutting down way more than usual. One local told me France was exporting a lot of wood to China. How true that is I don’t know. May well just be rumour, but more trees are being felled that’s for sure.

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
October 20, 2019 1:30 pm

I was recently in Namibia and there were vast acerages of scrubby forest being felled to produce charcoal – for exporting mainly to Europe, I was told. Europeans are still telling everyone what to do but conveniently ignoring their own backyard – and their BBQs.

October 20, 2019 10:45 am

As usual, concentrate on your hobby, and ignore the biggest carbon sink – the ocean.

Reply to  Curious George
October 20, 2019 11:15 am

I was going to guess Hillary’s ostomy bag.

Willem post
October 20, 2019 10:56 am

Leaving the forests untouched by humans and reforesting areas that were clearcut over the decades, would greatly increase the absorption of CO2 by the enlarged, healthy forest, plus would restore the forest flora and fauna ecosystems, plus would improve the world’s libido regarding global warming.

Nature covers itself with forests for a various reasons. Humans should not interfere, except when highly necessary.

Using woody biomass for burning should be outlawed worldwide.
Woody biomass should be harvested only for all other uses.

Reply to  Willem post
October 20, 2019 11:29 am

What about in Siberia where fire wood is used to keep warm and prevent one’s family from freezing? Or what about saw dusts and other wood wastes that can be used to make pellets but aren’t much good for uses?

Reply to  Scissor
October 20, 2019 12:43 pm

It is exceedingly unfortunate that some skeptics confuse making/burning woody biomass or pellets out of wood waste, which has about the same thermal value as lignite coal, than slash burning prime jungle habitat filled with Primates for woody biomass or palm oil. The CO2 that is liberated from burning wood was sequestered from the atmosphere in the last 100 years or less and isn’t adding any extra CO2 to the atmosphere and if it rots, it is just going to add the same CO2 and probably more methane.

Co-firing coal burning plants with 10%-20% wood pellets can make a coal plant more in line with the emissions of a NG CCGT. It is happening all over the world and should be encouraged. Just imagine if all the coal plants in the world that have been prematurely destroyed were instead co-fired with 15% wood pellets and were allowed to remain open. I will take woody biomass any day over wind/solar, especially woody debris biomass that we are awash in globally, since it generates base load spinning reserve electricity.

Willem post
Reply to  Earthling2
October 21, 2019 3:57 am

Taking from the forests year after year without adequately replenishing nutrients will lead to depleted forest soils.
No farmer would treat cropland that way, if proper harvests are required year after year.
The regrowth on those soils will be less robust, less resilient, less healthy and shorter lived, and absorb less CO2 per acre per year.
Forest, left undisturbed, will absorb the largest net CO2 per acre per year, FOR FREE.

Regarding burning wood instead of coal in power plants, that is practiced in the EU, because Brussels has ordained it to be renewables. However, scientist have disputed that stance and Brussels and the EPA are reluctantly, slowly “reviewing their stance”

Reply to  Scissor
October 20, 2019 3:46 pm

No pellets for you, Willem has spoken

Willem Post
Reply to  Scissor
October 21, 2019 3:44 am

There are exceptions, such as Siberia with no access to other sources.
Making pellets from a by product, such as sawdust, would be ok,
Clearcutting pine trees in the US southeast, 7 million ton per year, and turning them into pellets for burning in coal fired power plants in Europe should be outlawed.

Reply to  Willem Post
October 21, 2019 10:15 am

But it is ok to use the same planted pines on a plantation for pulp or toilet paper right? Why do you want to dictate to US lumbermen, who plant these plantations on their own private property as a crop similar to agriculture that they can’t enjoy the most profitable return from the private market who want to manufacture something of value such as wood pellets. Your rationale is bizarre and troubling for free enterprise capitalism. If your problem is with Drax in the UK burning wood pellets, take it up with the UK gov’t, don’t blame land owners in the USA who operate private plantation woodlots to grow wood fibre for their best return on investment.

Reply to  Willem post
October 20, 2019 11:54 am

I look on trees as a crop that should be husbanded and harvested. Trees are just like wheat only bigger. 🙂

Reply to  commieBob
October 20, 2019 1:22 pm

The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) was very popular in Western Canada during the Great Depression and really assisted in soil mitigation from the drought and blowing dirt with all the tree panting and shelter belts. Sad to see a lot of it cut down now, but with the farm equipment being so big now, and a lot of no till, the erosion isn’t as much a problem as it was with old farm practices. But to look at modern cities such as Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Edmonton etc, trees of all kinds will grow really good on the arid prairies if they get just a bit of water. It really is an urban forest. Vast forests could be planted along the North/South Saskatchewan river banks from Alberta to Manitoba and a lot of marginal land as well. And forests tend to transpire moisture to the atmosphere which would assist in moderating prairie drought and temperatures.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Willem post
October 20, 2019 11:57 am

Improving the libido of the world is ‘highly necessary’.
Nature covers itself with forests out of modesty, but the recent trend is quite the opposite, with the majority deciding instead on a well mowed and manicured lawn.
These well groomed spaces greatly increase libido, thus increasing woody biomass. The flora is fine if course, but the sofa is usually more comfortable.
Fauna should avoid artificial enhancements to her, um, ecosystems, no matter how strong the urge to see them enlarged. It just ain’t natural.
Warming the libido should always be done through natural means.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
October 20, 2019 1:49 pm

Nick, this is a blow below the belt; no climatologist will have a clue about what you’re talking about.


Reply to  Yooper
October 20, 2019 2:22 pm

A Groucho Marxist will easily understand.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
October 20, 2019 2:31 pm

Oh Nicholas!
I’m sure it was just auto-corrupt that changed poor Willem’s albedo to libido.

Woody biomass indeed

The real question—is the forest suffering from oppressive heteronormativity?

Willem Post
Reply to  Rich Davis
October 21, 2019 4:04 am

When I saw my comment with libido, instead of albedo, I almost had a wtf moment.
Needless to say, those auto spellers often need spell checking.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Willem Post
October 21, 2019 10:03 am

Well, for my part, when I saw it, I had a genuine “Martin and Lewis” moment.

Reply to  Willem post
October 20, 2019 12:02 pm

A large, untouched forest is not necessarily a healthy forest. Uninterrupted acres of mature trees sounds great in theory, but a mature forest cannot sustain grazers (deer, elk, etc.) or the animals that feed on them (bear, wolves). We need meadows just as much as we need forests. No meadows = no berries, no deer – and no berries or deer = no bears. Native North Americans sometimes would deliberately set fires to clear out forest and make way for meadows.
We need to manage our forests for a variety of reasons: because we need to harvest the wood (for paper and building materials), because many of us live close enough to the forest that we need to manage the interface (so our cities and towns aren’t destroyed in the event of a forest fire), because some people harvest food, and because we just like being in the woods.

Reply to  MonnaM
October 20, 2019 2:28 pm

IMHO, Freeman Dyson nailed it:

Since I was born and brought up in England, I spent my formative years in a land with great beauty and a rich ecology which is almost entirely man-made. The natural ecology of England was uninterrupted and rather boring forest. Humans replaced the forest with an artificial landscape of grassland and moorland, fields and farms, with a much richer variety of plant and animal species. Quite recently, only about a thousand years ago, we introduced rabbits, a non-native species which had a profound effect on the ecology. Rabbits opened glades in the forest where flowering plants now flourish. There is no wilderness in England, and yet there is plenty of room for wild-flowers and birds and butterflies as well as a high density of humans. Perhaps that is why I am a humanist. link

The greenies seem to worship biodiversity but don’t notice that a human moderated environment can be much more biodiverse than what nature produces left to its own devices.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  MonnaM
October 20, 2019 10:07 pm

No meadows = no berries, no deer

Let them eat Hostas.

Willem post
Reply to  MonnaM
October 21, 2019 4:15 am

Natives would set controlled fires to underbrush in the forests to enhance regrowth and attract animals for hunting.
The ashes of the fire became nutrients.
Minimal wood was taken from the forests, except for making larger canoes.
Smaller canoes were usually made from birch bark and sealed with molten pine tar.
Natives had minimal cropland near their villages.
Often they used fish as fertilizer and simultaneously grew several crops on the same piece of land

Reply to  Willem post
October 20, 2019 5:02 pm

The issue your statement neglects is the role of Active Fire Suppression.
If we humans actively suppress wildfires, then without continuous clearing, maintenance burns, and logging, devastating fires will follow with disasters at the wildland-urban interface.

Pick your poison.

Reply to  Willem post
October 21, 2019 5:38 am

lemme guess-you live in a city with reliable power and all mod cons like heating n cooling via gas or electricity?
real world we grow trees for firewood and stay alive by doing so.

son of mulder
October 20, 2019 10:58 am

Brazil needs to clear a lot of forests to accomodate all the wind turbines they are going to need. Planting trees would get in the way.

Karl Johan
October 20, 2019 11:14 am

From an ecological standpoint, I find it sad to read that this misunderstanding is spreading. No more carbon dioxide in wood is the basis of the soil,the soil is made up of dead plant residues from the annual photosynthesis.The annual fall does not manage to break down due to the cold wintertime, therefore the volume of the soil grows. If more trees are planted then these are primarily dependent on the nourishment that exists in the soil, which is the prerequisite for photosynthesis to contribute to trees binding CO2, the nourishment and CO2 they get together with water from the soil to transport the nourishment into the trees.
While these newly planted trees grow and bind CO2 then they breathe and they do so as long as it is alive, it does not stop breathing even though it is grown, as is the case with all creatures. This breath is what goes on in the carbon cycle and is the basis for new biomass to grow, now we disregard physical and chemical mechanisms that also release and bind carbon. Both Biological physical and chemical mechanisms vary in dynamics with temperature.
So CO2 comes from the Earth via the breathing of all organisms to the atmosphere. The volume of the carbon cycle increases as the volume of the living biomass increases, the more that breathes the more the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere grows. This demonization of CO2 belongs nowhere, scientists have not yet shown whether or how much CO2 affects the temperature

October 20, 2019 11:15 am

The Forestry Global Warming alarmists VS. the Savanna Global Warming alarmists.
Turf wars?
Popcorn time.

October 20, 2019 11:34 am

In some areas, namely in North Africa, reforestation (not afforestation) is better than high albedo, to save soils threatened by water and wind erosion, and high evaporation due to direct solar ray incidence… But the problem is how to choose suitable species. Pine tree, commonly used, is not well adapted, since it does not allow any other vegetation to grow under its canopy, in arid areas.

October 20, 2019 11:45 am

“Cows Save the Planet” and “Water in Plain Sight” by Judith Schwartz describe what should really be done with Savannahs to increase their carrying capacity and well-being.

Her books are based on SUCCESSFUL farmers/ranchers who improved their local soils, not on fancy graphs and over-intellectation like the rubbish in the article above. Properly done, improved grassland management is PROFITABLE, violates nobody’s rights, does not cost a trillion dollars damage to the global economy, and actually works.

Reforestation where appropriate is also profitable, heals the land, and increases both food for people and biodiversity for other creatures. If done right. Real humans muddle through everything, and make lots of mistakes, but we are beginning to catch on.

October 20, 2019 12:00 pm

Trees plant themselves. They have been doing that for millions of years.

Reply to  Urederra
October 20, 2019 1:13 pm

It takes a special kind of genius to plant them (or at least not trim the ones that have self planted) under transmission lines, however.

October 20, 2019 12:56 pm

I remember being amazed when I ran across the data (because it was so contrary to the Narrative) that showed that Texas today has over a million more acres of forested land *today* than it had in the early 1930’s.

John F. Hultquist
October 20, 2019 1:23 pm

97% of climate scientists have never planted a tree and coaxed it to grow into, well, a tree.

Okay, I just guessed at the 97%.

October 20, 2019 1:34 pm

in the western united states we have far too many trees in our forest leading to crisis. unmanaged fuel load lead to increasingly devastating wild fires. too little water to support the number of trees leads to vast acreages of dead and dying trees. trees that are weakened by water stress are susceptible to insects and disease. in utah there is more than 1.2 million acres of standing dead trees due to drouth stress, insect and disease. studies have shown that where there used to be 10 to 20 trees per acre there are now over 100. completely unsustainable. fire used to keep the forest at appropriate levels. logging did the same. now we have a completely ruined forest situation. we dont need more trees here, we need a managed sustainable forest.

October 20, 2019 1:37 pm

“The topic is complex and involves multiple parameters and variables, all of which the authors of an article in Science should know.” Where have we heard that before? Hmmm.

October 20, 2019 1:50 pm

Planting more pine trees across Canada and Russia. Would be useful in reducing the albedo of there snowfields.

October 20, 2019 1:53 pm

Read about the Hoedad cooperative, and know that the hoedad is not an idiot-stick, many are well educated.

Bruce Cobb
October 20, 2019 2:00 pm

Like all geoengineering schemes, tree-planting for the wrong reason (“carbon sequestration) is a bad one. If there are good reasons for tree planting in some areas, one might reasonably ask why it isn’t being done now? As usual, the answer is it is most like not practical, and would cost a lot of money. For money, carbonistas are always eyeing the possibility of funds from “carbon reparations” and other fraudulent, pseudoscience-based funding schemes.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 20, 2019 2:41 pm

Ideally, it should be done for ‘free’ by the private sector hoping to make a long term buck. I don’t see creating new forests as that problematic since there are so many obvious benefits but if it is, it can all be cut down in fast order. I just can’t see planted forests as a huge problem for the environment or society other than the problem you mention, is that someone will want it all paid for which in itself becomes inefficient and expensive for those that will have to pay for it all. Let me purchase millions of acres of cheap low quality land that has some provision for securing water rights somewhere I can pipe it in from, and I will create an economic opportunity and further the forest industry while creating opportunities for the biosphere/environment/animals and industry that will achieve multiple goals and aspirations. Delayed CO2 storage is also a result, although in reality, it is just small scale storage of the carbon cycle that will be liberated some day when we need to utilize it, or when it burns down. Nothing wrong with husbandry of the good earth. We just have to be honest and not make someone else pay for it for nebulous reasons.

Bjarne Bisballe
October 20, 2019 2:11 pm

If 1000 trees are not planted, all other trees and plants in the world benefit from the CO2 not sequestered by the 1000 trees. Planting trees is fine for many things, birds for instance, but it will not chance CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Willem post
Reply to  Bjarne Bisballe
October 21, 2019 4:24 am

The graph of CO2 ppm for one year clearly shows seasonal effects of biomass growth worldwide.

Bjarne Bisballe
Reply to  Willem post
October 21, 2019 11:28 pm

From september until may level rises. (CO2 outgassing from warm South Pacific + stop of CO2-consumpion in northern regions) From may until september level goes down. (Vegetation growth in northern regions + colder South Pacific)

October 20, 2019 2:13 pm

Living in North America and the Northern reaches of same, I have observed forest’s natural processes. Namely, the hardwood forest of beech (whence beech nuts), oak and elm (where some still persist), tulip and poplar (more North of 40 degrees Latitude), just before getting into the boreal forests of tamarack, balsam, fir, spruce (Blue and Black) at 45 degrees Latitude, there is the grape vine, specifically the Concord grape vine. This vine climbs the highest reaches of deciduous trees and by their weight, bring these “climatic” forest, down in ever expanding impacts. Ultimately, the hardwood forest is brought down and the open meadow is soon populated with all sorts of grasses and shrubs providing the ecology for forest dwellers to flourish. And then the process begins all over again. Conifers, I love White Pine, can overtake the climatic forest cycle and become the dominant species in which case, a thorough clearing of the conifers either by buck saw or forest fire restores nature and, along with their participation in the carbon cycle will return carbon to its rightful domain, soil.

Reply to  RiHo08
October 20, 2019 5:51 pm

” Northern reaches of same, ”

How far North? I’m at 46.46 N

Reply to  RiHo08
October 20, 2019 7:10 pm

You mention the “climatic” forest. Do you mean the climax forest?
Where I live, conifers (softwood) are the climax forest. Is the climax forest hardwood where you live?

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  MonnaM
October 20, 2019 9:05 pm

Most typically, I believe, the climax forest condition in these regions is mixed.

Reply to  MonnaM
October 21, 2019 1:04 am

They might as well mean climatic as climax since the “climax community” concept was largely discredited by the 1960s and is only taken seriously in Forestry Faculties with staff dating from before that era (,have%20reached%20a%20steady%20state.).

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  BCBill
October 21, 2019 2:23 am

It has been a long while since I have seen this terminology used, so I am not surprised if you are correct.

Reply to  BCBill
October 22, 2019 11:38 pm

Fair enough. I was reaching a fair ways back for the term. 🙂

Dave Anderson
October 20, 2019 2:25 pm

I love trees. Plant away.

Rich Davis
October 20, 2019 2:59 pm

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this comes from EurekAlert! so whatever they’re selling, the opposite is sure to be the truth.

In this case, the objective was to debunk the idea that it’s possible to sequester anthropogenic CO2 by planting trees, which if accepted as a principle, would call into question the need to dismantle modern civilization with the implementation of green socialism that eliminates fossil fuel use.

It’s also possible to sequester vast amounts of CO2 by fertilizing the oceans. But let’s also not lose sight of the fact that sequestering CO2 is totally unnecessary. It is not doing any harm. Any warming is and will remain minor and beneficial. CO2 is not controlling the climate.

October 21, 2019 12:36 am

WOW! We need more C02 to green the earth more !!!!
Not much mention of role C02 plays in greening the earth. I think YouTube and Google has removed a lot of Dr Patrick Moore videos … – in this video fast forward to about 9 mins where he starts talking about greening the earth and C02:
We actually need more C02 to green the earth more… No mention of this in the article or in the comments I read.
Fast forward to about 9 minutes to see any mention of C02 and greening of the earth:

Dr Patrick Moore… read… and do some research.


Rhys Jaggar
October 21, 2019 5:02 am

I think there is a basic misconception in this article stating that forests prevent river outflows. For gawds sake, the whole Amazon basin has enormous river outflows and they stem from climax tropical jungle. So trying to say trees stop river outflow is bunkum at best and wilful lying at worst. Trees may absorb more water but they breathe a lot out too through transpiration.

What forests do very well is reduce peak river flows after heavy rainfall, since in general forest floors can hold a lot of water before runoff occurs.

It is quite clear politics is driving both sides of this argument.

The best to start reafforesting is where forests were previously cut down. You know, all those bits of the Amazon, all those SE asian islands, the Scottish Highlands where the Caledonian forest existed, etc etc. Places you knows forests grow well, because they grew well before humans cut them down.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
October 21, 2019 10:12 am

The other fallacy is relating to albedo, specifically that forests warm the Earth by altering albedo and lowering as compared to bare ground.
The truth of course is far more complex, but climate sciencism does not do “complex”.

October 21, 2019 5:24 am

“Plant a tree” is the new wonder remedy for climate change.

The problem is that all organisms eventually die, and once a tree die, it will rot, and all the carbon it has captured during its entire lifetime are released back to the atmosphere.


Reply to  Jan Kjetil Andersen
October 21, 2019 7:05 am

Not if you turn it into charcoal first. Biochar is the real practical and cost effective solution. Takes over a thousand years on average to release the carbon back into the atmosphere. Regenerates the soil by enhancing microbial life.

Rudolf Huber
October 21, 2019 12:42 pm

A little more than 200 million years ago, a forestation event almost led to the extinction of all life. Nature did not know a method to decompose lignin which is a major component of wood. This means that when trees died, they toppled over but could not rot in order to release their carbon back into the atmosphere. New trees sucked ever more carbon out of the air until carbon concentration was very low. So low that Earth flirted with the idea of mass suicide due to carbon starvation. Luckily, nature developed organisms that could digest lignin and CO2 concentration sprung up again. There was another brush with carbon suicide during the ice ages. Earth is dangerously low on carbon. A concentration wy above 1000ppm would be way more healthy. Industrial civilization and its carbon emissions gave Earth another lease of life.

October 21, 2019 1:35 pm

One of the authors of the rebuttal article in Science, Will Bond, is a well established expert on the equilibrium between forest and grassland.

He showed how changes in CO2 concentration lead to grasslands where CO2 is low, since trees grow slower and take too long to get to a size to resist fires. Conversely, when CO2 rises, trees grow faster and can repopulate grassland areas.

Therefore since we are increasing CO2, we are also increasing forests worldwide at the expense of some grasslands. This is happening naturally without any need of human intervention (other than carrying on burning carbon 🙂

Mike Dubrasich
October 21, 2019 9:26 pm

The Cerrado savanna has been managed with/by anthropogenic fire for millennia.

From: Kayapó Savanna Management: Fire, Soils, and Forest Islands in a Threatened Biome by Susanna B. Hecht, Chapter 7 in Amazonian Dark Earths: Wim Sombroek’s Vision, William I. Woods (Editor), Wenceslau G. Teixeira (Editor), Johannes Lehmann (Editor), Christoph Steiner (Editor), Antoinette M.G.A. WinklerPrins (Editor), Lilian Rebellato (Editor). 2009. Springer.

The Kayapó burn the Cerrado systems in many complex ways, although the intentionality of the burning in some cases may be open to speculation. The Kayapó burn throughout the dry season, the burning is usually done early in the day. The spatial mosaic of the burning is very uneven, creating a pattern of burn history of different extent, intensity and age and types of ash depending on the burn temperature. As has been noted elsewhere, burning is a constant feature of Kayapó resource management and throughout the dry season one is in a kind of smoldering landscape (Hecht 2003, 2005).

Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
October 21, 2019 9:44 pm

Yellowstone National Park is cited as a bad place to reforest. My wife and I spent four days there in July, and one of the things we saw were hundreds, perhaps thousands of acres of forest that had been burned out by recent wild fires. What would be wrong with reforesting that?

Tony Garcia
October 22, 2019 12:53 pm

It would appear that everything these days is seen through the polarising filter of climate change; What about other issues? In many places so-called “invasive specie” trees are being removed on the basis that they use up too much water. Would it not then make sense to plant these or similar water intensive trees in the catchment areas of rivers prone to flooding so as to mitigate the flooding potential? Nature does not respect the boundaries we place on it for study purposes….

October 26, 2019 9:30 pm

It would be extremely ironic if massive forests were planted out to sequester CO2 and in turn later it’s discovered that water vapour was the driver not CO2. All that additional transpiration adding water vapour to the atmosphere.

On another note for the scientists, is it possible that due to increased urbanisation, buildings, infrastructure , roads, rail etc etc (because of the rising human population) it has added immense additional surface area (like compare the land area vs the surface area of a high-rise building on that land) to the planet’s surface and that is what has contributed to warming?

The type of surface it is holds heat (concrete, bricks, bitumin, steel etc). Now similar to the alloy cooling fins on an amplifier’s heat sink the air passes by/between and warms. Could it be enough to alter the temperature?

As a person who spends a fair amount of time outdoors, I also notice that the ambient night time temperature around trees is warmer than in an open field. The trees retain heat over night. A lot cozier in a forest than an open field at night. Now if temperature drops 6.5C per 1km higher we go, then holding that heat small percentage of heat back with trees and additional urban sprawl could have been enough to do the 1C change we’re measuring at surface?

“prevent the night’s heat flow from the surface to the sky, thereby altering local climates and comfort levels”

“During the night, diameter at breast height and tree decay class were important, such that larger, live trees cooled down less.”

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