Can’t See the Forest for the Woods

“Any natural area with a high density of trees is referred to as a forest. Forests are large in size and are either evergreen or deciduous in nature … A wood is also an area in the wild that is covered with trees though it is much smaller than a forest … Forest is a word that is used to refer to wild areas with wild animals. Going into the woods envisages an area that is full of trees but forest is a wild area much bigger in size and having much higher number of trees.”

                                                                ~ Difference Between.com

If, like me, you sometimes despair about climate change and human nature and our lack of progress in implementing solutions to the looming impacts, take heart in the little things. You don’t need to replace the Brazilian rainforest all by yourself right now — as enticing as that action appears — but we can each take a small step to try to offset the effects.

Irene Huhulea notes, “Addressing climate change starts with understanding that the climate crisis is bigger than all of us. To combat it, we need both adaptation and mitigation. We also need systemic solutions, and we all need to do our part. Tree planting is one of the most effective ways for us, as individuals, and collectively, to positively impact climate change.”

Trees, however, do more than just fight CO2. Huhulea continues, “In addition to reducing carbon emissions, tree planting has been shown to increase biodiversity and strengthen ecosystems.” And as reported by Alex Thornton, “Urban forests bring many benefits to communities beyond their impact on biodiversity. Green spaces can help to improve people’s mental health, reduce the harmful effects of air pollution, and even counter the phenomenon of heat islands in cities, where expanses of concrete and asphalt raise temperatures unnaturally high.”

If we think in terms of woods, rather than forests, we can adapt the scale of our thinking to things that we can accomplish as individuals or small groups. Thornton has observed, “Miniature forests are springing up on patches of land in urban areas around the world, often planted by local community groups using a method inspired by Japanese temples … The idea is simple – take brownfield sites, plant them densely with a wide variety of native seedlings, and let them grow with minimal intervention. The result, according to the method’s proponents, is complex ecosystems perfectly suited to local conditions that improve biodiversity, grow quickly and absorb more CO2.”

It can take many small steps to make a difference — but there are many ways to get there. Green roofs, street trees and large-scale reforestation are all needed. And you don’t need a large plot of land. Small-scale woods can be used in conjunction with regular urban or rural plots to combine trees with other plantings. For example, agroforestry is the combination of agriculture and forestry, and involves considering how trees can be integrated into a range of different means of food production at a small or large scale, including “food forests: abundant and biodiverse, largely perennial, planting schemes; silvoarable systems: Integrating trees with traditional row crops/grains/pulses; and silvopasture systems: integrating trees with animal pasture/livestock farming … All of these types of agroforestry can be implemented on a small scale, as well as in larger agricultural systems. Even the smallest garden can include a small food forest.”

Grow food, fight carbon dioxide build-up, and create diverse ecosystems — not a bad list of accomplishments for just a little effort.

Go ahead, give it a try. You can see the trees for the forest.

Additional information:

Difference Between.com, Difference Between Wood and Forest, May 12, 2013

Irene Huhulea, Why Planting Trees Is One of the Most Effective Forms of Climate Action, November 16, 2020, TreeHugger

Alex Thornton, People Are Planting Tiny Urban Forests To Boost Biodiversity And Fight Climate Change, July 3, 2020, World Economic Forum

Elizabeth Waddington, Agroforestry Approaches For Gardens and Small Farms, March 19, 2021, Treehugger

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