Afforestation is simply the deliberate or spontaneous establishment of forest ecosystem in areas which were not previously forested. This article discusses afforestation definition, comparison, types and examples, as outlined below;
Afforestation Definition: 5 Ways to Define Afforestation
Afforestation is the act or process by which trees and shrubs are grown on land without any significant prior or recent forest history .
The phrase ‘without any prior forest history’ above can be viewed as the most unique attribute of afforestation, by which it could be differentiated from similar vegetative concepts like deforestation, reforestation, and reafforestation. It often refers to an absence of forest vegetation on land over the last 50 years or more .
In the alternative afforestation definition that is given below; the difference(s) between afforestation, reforestation and reafforestation, is highlighted;
Afforestation is a vegetative process whereby forest vegetation grows on land; and which differs from reforestation and reafforestation by involving land that has not necessarily been forested in its evolutionary history.
Causes or methods of afforestation are also highlighted, in the afforestation definition below;
Afforestation is the growth of trees and shrubs in un-forested land, as a result of deliberate cultivation, or natural seeding.
While natural seeding can lead to the growth of trees in un-forested land, the chances of such spontaneous processes leading to full-scale establishment of forest on such land, are slim.
Also, provided natural seeding eventually leads to full-scale forestation, the time required for such evolution and transformation to occur, may span several centuries.
Given the prevalence of issues like overpopulation and increase in industrialization in many parts of the world, it is unlikely that the required long-term stability and sustainability for natural afforestation will be attainable.
Some benefits of afforestation are mentioned in the afforestation definition below;
Afforestation is the growth of woody perennial vegetation on un-forested land, which leads to benefits such as; hazard mitigation, air quality enhancement, soil conservation, circular economic development, water conservation, and public health improvement.
Lastly, the afforestation definition is outlined to include species of trees that can be used in this process;
Afforestation is the deliberate cultivation or natural growth of a large population of forest plant species like; Cordia africana, Robina pseudoacacia L., Grevillea robusta, Populus nigra, and T. distichium Rich., on land that was not previously occupied by forest.
Afforestation Vs Reforestation
The difference between afforestation and reforestation lies in the vegetative and evolutionary history of the land on which forestation is occurring; where afforestation involves land with no significant prior forest history, and reforestation typically involves forest land.
Afforestation vs reforestation comparison is summarized in the table below;
Land Vegetative History
No prior forest history
Relative Ecologic Changes
Afforestation is also different from deforestation.
The difference between afforestation and deforestation lies in the direction, trend, or nature of vegetation growth; where afforestation involves positive growth, and deforestation involves negative growth or loss of vegetation.
Comparison between Afforestation and Reafforestation
Reafforestation is often used as a synonym of reforestation.
However, reafforestation differs from reforestation by involving land whose forest history can be directly attributed to afforestation efforts.
This means that the forest history of lands involved in reafforestation is mostly un-forested. For reforestation, the forest history of lands involved is mostly forested.
Also, reafforestation mostly involves lands whose prior forest occupation is linked to deliberate cultivation and agroforestry; while reforestation mostly involves lands whose prior forest occupation was a product of natural evolution.
The difference between afforestation and reafforestation lies in the context of vegetation growth; where afforestation involves incipient, virgin growth of forest vegetation on previously un-forested land; and reafforestation is a second-phase growth of forest vegetation on land that has been experienced afforestation in its evolutionary history.
Causes of Afforestation
The two main causes of afforestation are; deliberate cultivation and natural seeding.
Deliberate cultivation is simply the practice of artificial forestation or agroforestry; whereby trees and shrubs grow on un-forested land as a result of human efforts to plant such vegetation.
Natural seeding, on the other hand; is a more spontaneous process of seed transport, germination, and plant growth; that is similar to pollination.
Here, natural forces like wind and water may transport viable seeds to un-occupied lands where these seeds germinate and lead to the growth of trees and establishment of forest.
Most afforestation cases result from deliberate cultivation by humans.
Types of Afforestation
Types of afforestation are; agroforestry-based, regenerative, and artificial forestation.
1). Agroforestry-based Afforestation (as one of the Types of Afforestation)
This type of afforestation is based on human activities, and is usually carried out in line with principles of sustainable agriculture.
Agroforestry-based afforestation involves cultivating both crops and woody perennial species on the same land.
2). Regenerative Afforestation
Regenerative afforestation is a type of afforestation that is dependent on natural processes and ecological evolution, to establish forests in previously un-forested areas.
It is based on natural seedling transport, germination and plant growth.
3). Artificial forestation (as one of the Types of Afforestation)
Artificial forestation is a type of afforestation which occurs as the product of large-scale human efforts to mitigate environmental degradation by planting trees.
It usually involves the establishment of ‘artificial forests’ or tree plantations.
Artificial forestation does not always occur on un-forested lands with no prior occupation by trees; therefore it covers not only afforestation, but also reforestation and reafforestation.
Examples of Afforestation Projects
Examples of afforestation projects are;
1). World Bank-Assisted Afforestation Project in Shandong, China (2010-2016)
2). Jigawa State Afforestation Programme (JIGAP); in Jigawa, Nigeria (established in 1991) .
3). Ontario Biodiversity Afforestation Project (OBAP); in Ontario, Canada
Afforestation is the growth and establishment of forest vegetation and conditions in land that was previously un-occupied by forest.
Types of afforestation are;
1. Agroforestry-based Afforestation
3. Artificial forestation
Examples of afforestation projects are; World Bank-Assisted Afforestation Project in Shandong, China (2010-2016); Jigawa State Afforestation Programme (JIGAP); in Jigawa, Nigeria (established in 1991) (Garba et al. 2016); and Ontario Biodiversity Afforestation Project (OBAP); in Ontario, Canada
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