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Afforestation is planting seed or trees to make a forest on land has not been a forest recently, or which has never been a forest. Reforestation is the reestablishing a forest after removal, for example from a timber harvest. Many countries have experienced centuries of deforestation, and some governments and non-governmental organisations directly engage in programs of afforestation to restore forests and assist in preservation of biodiversity. (In the UK afforestation may mean legally converting land into a royal forest.)

Afforestation in areas of degraded soil

In some places, forests need help to reestablish themselves because of environmental factors. For example, once forest cover is destroyed in arid zones, the land may dry and become inhospitable to new tree growth. Other factors include overgrazing by livestock, especially animals such as goats, and over-harvesting of forest resources. Together these may lead to desertification and the loss of topsoil; without soil, forests cannot grow until the long process of soil creation has been completed - if erosion allows this. In some tropical areas, forest cover removal 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 because people are using the land. 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 needed.

World regions


Because of the extensive Amazon deforestation during the last decades and ongoing, the small efforts of afforestation are insignificant on a national scale of the Amazon Rainforest.


China has deforested most of its historical wooded areas. China reached the point where timber yields declined far below historic levels, due to over-harvesting of trees beyond sustainable yield. Although it has set official goals for reforestation, these goals were set for a 80 year time horizon and are not significantly met by 2008. China is trying to correct these problems by projects as the Green Wall of China, which aims to replant a great deal of forests and halt the expansion of the Gobi desert. A law promulgated in 1981 requires that every citizen over the age of 11 plant at least one tree per year. As a result, China currently has the highest afforestation rate of any country or region in the world, with 47,000 square kilometers of afforestation in 2008. However, the forest area per capita is still far lower than the international average. An ambitious proposal for China is the Aerially Delivered Re-forestation and Erosion Control System and the Proposed sahara forest project coupled with the Seawater Greenhouse


Europe has deforested the majority of its historical forests. The European Union has paid farmers for afforestation since 1990, offering grants to turn farmland back into forest and payments for the management of forest. Between 1993 and 1997, EU afforestation policies made possible the re-forestation of over 5,000 square kilometres of land. A second program, running between 2000 and 2006, afforested in excess of 1000 square kilometres of land (precise statistics not yet available). A third such program began in 2007.

In Polandmarker, the National Program of Afforestation was introduced by the government after World War Two, when total area of forests shrank to 20% of country's territory. Consequently, forested areas of Poland grew year by year, and on December 31, 2006, forests covered 29% of the country (see: Polish forests). It is planned that by 2050, forests will cover 33% of Poland.


Iran is considered a low forest cover region of the world with present cover approximating seven percent of the land area. This is a value reduced by an estimated six million hectares of virgin forest, which includes oak, almond and pistacio. Due to soil substrates, it is difficult to achieve afforestation on a large scale compared to other temperate areas endowed with more fertile and less rocky and arid soil conditions. Consequently, most of the afforestation is conducted with non-native species, leading to habitat destruction for native flora and fauna, and resulting in an accelerated loss of biodiversity.

See also

Line notes

  1. E.O. Wilson, 2002
  2. A.Cattaneo, 2002
  3. G.A.McBeath, 2006
  6. J.A.Stanturf, 2004
  7. J.A.Stanturf, 2004
  8. J.A.Stanturf, 2004
  9. E.O. Wilson, 2002


  • Andrea Cattaneo (2002) Balancing Agricultural Development and Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, Int Food Policy Res Inst IFPRI, 146 pages ISBN:0896291308
  • Gerrit W. Heil, Bart Muys and Karin Hansen (2007) Environmental Effects of Afforestation in North-Western Europe, Springer, 320 pages ISBN:1402045670
  • Gerald A. McBeath and Tse-Kang Leng (2006) Governance of Biodiversity Conservation in China and Taiwan, Edward Elgar Publishing, 242 pages ISBN:1843768100
  • Halldorsson G., Oddsdottir, ES and Sigurdsson BD (2008) AFFORNORD Effects of Afforestation on Ecosystems, Landscape and Rural Development, TemaNord 2008:562, 120 pages ISBN:978-92-893-1718-4
  • Halldorsson G., Oddsdottir, ES and Eggertsson O (2007) Effects of Afforestation on Ecosystems, Landscape and Rural Development. Proceedings of the AFFORNORD conference, Reykholt, Iceland, June 18-22, 2005, TemaNord 2007:508, 343pages ISBN:978-92-893-1443-5
  • John A. Stanturf and Palle Madsen (2004) Restoration of Boreal and Temperate Forests, CRC Press, 569 pages ISBN:1566706351
  • E. O. Wilson (2002) The Future of Life, Vintage ISBN 0-679-76811-4

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