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Reforestation is the process of restoring tree cover to areas where woodlands or forest once existed but was removed by logging for wood products; if this area never returns to its original state of a forest this destructive process is called deforestation. In order to maintain a sustainable forest industry reforestation is necessary. Reforestation occurs in many ways.

In many temperate zones such as the eastern United States, reforestation occurs quite naturally as the native hardwood forests are so resilient that, given any opportunity, they quickly re-establish themselves. However urban sprawl, and agriculture required permanently deforested lands which is leading to forest reduction in the area. From poor logging practices and/or if the soil quality is too poor and erosion prone for natural regeneration, artificial reforestation is required.

In various arid, tropical, or sensitive areas, forests cannot re-establish themselves without assistance due to a variety of environmental factors. One of these factors is that, once forest cover is destroyed in arid zones, the land quickly dries out and becomes inhospitable to new tree growth. Other critical factors include overgrazing by livestock, especially animals such as goats, and over-harvesting of forest resources by native populations or outside businesses. Together these may lead to desertification and the loss of topsoil; without soil, forests cannot grow until the very long process of soil creation has been completed - if erosion allows this. In some tropical areas, the removal of forest cover may result in a duricrust or duripan that effectively seal off the soil to water penetration and root growth. In many areas, reforestation is impossible above all because the land is in use by people.

In these areas, reforestation requires the planting of tree seedlings, treeplanting. In other areas, mechanical breaking up of duripans or duricrusts is necessary, careful and continued watering may be essential, and special protection, such as fencing, may be required.

One debatable issue in artificial reforestation is whether or not the succeding forest will have the same biodiversity as the original forest. If the forest is replaced with only one species of tree and all other vegetation is prevented from growing back, a monoculture forest similar to agricultural crops would be the result. However, most reforestation involves the planting of different seedlots of seedlings taken from the area. More frequently multiple species are planted as well. Another important factor is the natural regeneration of a wide variety of plant and animal species that can occur on a clearcut. In some areas the suppression of forest fires for hundreds of years has resulted in large single aged and single specied forest stands. The logging of small clearcuts and or prescribed burning, actually increases the biodiversity in these areas by creating a greater variety of treestand ages and species.

Reforestation need not be only used for recovery of accidentally destroyed forests. In some countries, such as Finland, the forests are managed by thewood products and pulp and paper industry. In such an arrangement, like other crops, trees are replanted wherever they are cut. In such circumstances, the cutting of trees can be carefully done to allow easier reforestation. In Canada, the wood product and pulp and paper industry systematically replaces many of the trees it cuts, employing large numbers of summer workers for treeplanting work.

The sustainable management of forest resources is called forestry.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 14:05:26
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04