What does afforestation mean?
Afforestation means establishing new forests or planting new trees. As such, it is the opposite of deforestation, which means removing trees from a certain area.
We can understand this word by looking at its etymology. The word afforestation seems to first have been used in the mid seventeenth century, and it means to create a forest, or to turn a patch of land into a forest. This word was derived from the medieval Latin word ‘afforestare’ which means ‘to create a forest’. The word had a legal sense to it: it meant putting a patch of land under the sway of the laws that applied to a forest, i.e. turning that land legally into a forest and applying all of the laws that related to forests to it.
The Medieval Latin verb afforestare in its turn comes from the ancient Latin prefix ‘ad’ which means ‘towards’ or ‘for’ and ‘foresta’ which means ‘a forest’. Together these words have the meaning of ‘making a forest’ or doing something with the end goal of creating a forest.
Afforestation can be achieved by humans planting new trees where there were never trees before, or by planting trees to replace trees that had been cut down as a result of deforestation. Afforestation can also be a totally natural process without any human influence at all: i.e. the process whereby trees naturally reproduce and colonize new areas.
The benefits of afforestation.
It is important because it helps to preserve the environment, protect the soil and to preserve biodiversity. It would be impossible to list all of the many benefits of afforestation. However, here are five key advantages to pursuing the practice of afforestation.
1. Biodiversity: forests tend to be highly biodiverse habitats which support the lives of numerous different types of creatures. Afforestation helps to foster biodiversity.
2. Wilderness: it is crucial to keep some areas of our globe untouched by human activity – to preserve nature pristine so that it can regenerate itself and flourish in its own way. A forest can be the perfect space for this to happen.
3. Caring for the soil: tree roots hold the soil in place when it rains, and prevent it from being washed away. The mulch that comes from dead tree leaves, moreover, causes soil to become rich in minerals which in its turn makes it great for supporting the lives of a diverse array of fungi, plants and flowers as well as insects and the animals who feed on them.
4. Carbon footprints: forests are like the lungs of the world. They lock away carbon and release oxygen in cycles that work in harmony with the cycles of the seasons and the carbon cycle. As a result, afforestation can help to combat global warming and climate change.
5. Beauty: forests are beautiful and wondrous places to visit. They help to inspire us and to calm us down all at once. Their mystery and their beauty are also reasons to create new forests and to replace the forests we have destroyed.
On every continent of the world, the situation relating to our forests is critical. Humans have taken away so many of the forests that it is now time to start afforestation on a very grand scale.
Afforestation can be increased by governments and other authorities providing the necessary funds to pay for afforestation projects. Moreover, another vital aspect of the success of afforestation will be training skilled workers in all aspects of afforestation and biodiversity. That means providing and funding training courses for everyone from biologists to manual laborers who will be able to physically plant the trees.
Educating the general public about the importance of afforestation is also absolutely vital. People will be more likely to support and to respect afforestation projects if they understand their importance.
Of course, there is no point in increasing afforestation if deforestation continues to increase as well as the two will pretty much cancel each other out – or, worse, despite afforestation the total number of forests on earth will decrease. Thus, reducing deforestation is also key.