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The Importance of Reforestation

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Reforestation activities promote the sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere, thereby decreasing the concentration of this gas and thus play an important role in aginst greenhouse effect. The removal of CO2 from the atmosphere through the photosynthesis allows the fixation of carbon in vegetation biomass and soils. As the vegetation grows, the carbon is being incorporated into the trunks, branches, leaves and roots. About 50% of plant biomass consists of carbon, and the Amazon forest is a major global stock of carbon in its field and density of biomass. The Amazon forest stores about 140 tons of carbon per hectare. Reforestation has a great importance in fighting against climate change, the increase of water resources, reduction of losses in agriculture related to floods, increase the stock sustainable and legal timber, CO2 sequestration and reducing greenhouse gases.

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The trees prevent or reduce soil erosion and water contamination. According to its situation, species, size and condition, the shade from trees can reduce spending on air conditioning for residential and commercial buildings from a percentage of 15% to 50%. The shade from trees cools the streets and parking lots. Temperatures in cities tend to register between 5:09 degrees more than in regions where there are trees. Trees are a natural means of cooling that reduces the need for the construction of hydroelectric and nuclear Contributing to the undercurrents and the maintenance of rivers. Planted treesreduce significantly noise pollution at road junctions, a large move. Serve as visual barriers. It is a constant source of fuel for stoves and power plants. The planned and controlled management of forests is a sustainable source of wood. Trees of a residential or commercial, well placed and cared for, can increase the value of the property, and protect them from wind. Forests have a role important in the preservation of wild fauna and flor.

Felipe Ch'oc, a forest guard in the Guatemalan village of Santa Maria Dolores de Ixcn, near the border with Mexico, has been patrolling the forests on his land for over 20 years. He understands the importance of the forest: as a provider of fresh water, as a home for native plants and animals, and as a beautiful place for recreation and exploration. As he simply puts it, "The forest is life."

Yet there is a rapidly growing population in Guatemala, and with it, a growing demand for food and for firewood. In general, the conversion of forested lands for agriculture and livestock production and the unmanaged harvesting of wood are the greatest threats to tropical forests. For some people, it is important to protect the forests from these threats, while others are more concerned with providing for their families. In some cases, the people do not understand the importance of the forests until they are gone, when their water supplies disappear or their soil erodes quickly or the local climate changes.

To combat deforestation in the region, EcoLogic is helping the rural poor of Mexico and Central America to utilize and manage their forest resources more efficiently and to restore their forests through reforestation projects. In this way, forests can be both protected and sustainably managed in order to help local people to meet their needs.

Reforestation is the reestablishment or expansion of a forest which was previously destroyed or degraded. Sometimes the reforestation occurs through natural regeneration, when seeds from existing stands of trees are deposited on deforested lands, distributed by either wind, insects, birds, or other seed dispersers. Other times lands are reforested artificially, by planting trees on degraded or deforested lands, with species that are native to that area.

The primary goal of reforestation is usually to regenerate forests, with the aim of restoring the environmental and economic benefits they provide, but reforestation activities can also provide a wealth of social benefits as well. From growing seedlings to planting and cultivating them, EcoLogic's reforestation projects not only enhance the local environment of the people who live there, but also serve as vehicles to both educate and empower.

Providing environmental services

The natural benefits of trees and forests are perhaps the first thing to come to mind when one hears the word "reforestation." The roots of trees serve as an extensive net that holds the soil in place, thereby preventing excessive erosion of the soil and its nutrients. The roots also absorb water from the soil, allowing the trees to act as natural storage tanks of freshwater, and slowing the loss of rainwater from the ecosystem through runoff. Some of the water absorbed by trees is released into the air as water vapor through the leaves, a process called transpiration; this restores moisture to the

atmosphere and helps maintain the water cycle in the local environment. In addition to regulating the water cycle, trees regulate local temperature by providing shade, cooling both the soil and the air below the upper branches. Perhaps most importantly, trees provide natural habitat for other life forms, as a home and a food source. In these and many other ways, trees stabilize and maintain the soil, biodiversity, and climate of the forest.

Through their natural functions, trees can also provide environmental services valued by people. For example, by absorbing minerals and chemicals through their roots, trees can remove pollution from the soil and from the freshwater that runs through it, such as streams used for drinking water. Trees can therefore serve as a natural water purification system, cleaning the water of the ecosystem and providing safe water for human consumption.

By the process of photosynthesis, trees capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to reduce quantities of this greenhouse gas and mitigating the effects of climate change. Moreover, by controlling the flow of surface water and reducing the runoff of soil, trees can also help mitigate the effects of extreme weather events. This
The trees around this water source help to maintain and purify the fresh water.

reduces the occurrence of floods and mudslides, particularly in areas susceptible to disasters, such as coastal areas and mountainous regions. Trees can also reduce the risk of droughts by retaining water in the local environment and cooling local temperatures by shading the soil.

Forests can also improve food security for people living in and around them. For instance, the biodiversity that depends on trees for habitat and food are often the same living things that serve as natural pollinators for agricultural crops. Furthermore, the biomass produced by trees - leaves, branches, the trunk and roots - all contain nutrients that, when decomposed, enrich the soil and improve the growth of other plants. The roots of trees also help to retain these nutrients in the soil by reducing erosion from wind and rain. EcoLogic is working with communities to promote agroforestry, a

method of agriculture that plants native trees along with crops. Agroforestry greatly improves yields by providing the benefits of trees to the cultivation of crops - reduced erosion, increased nutrients, and regulation of the local climate.

All of these environmental services - erosion control, maintenance of the water cycle, temperature regulation, habitat for biodiversity, water purification, climate regulation, mitigation of extreme weather events, enhanced pollination, and enrichment of the soil - demonstrate the economic value to people of protecting forests and reducing or avoiding deforestation.

Fighting the root causes of deforestation

Trees provide a natural and important source of raw materials for people. For the rural poor, this is primarily in the form of firewood used for cooking and heating, lumber for the construction of homes and buildings, and wood for furniture. In many ways, the usability of forests as raw materials is its best and worst offering, as people continue to deforest landscapes. This deforestation, in turn, leads to the loss of all the other environmental services forests provide, from the regulation of the water cycle to storing atmospheric carbon.
The forests of the western mountains in Guatemala are rapidly being destroyed to provide firewood for the growing population.

In order to combat tropical deforestation, EcoLogic is working with poor rural communities to restore their forests through reforestation. The primary objective of these projects is often to protect and improve fresh water sources for the communities, but some projects are designed to provide more firewood to meet a growing demand, while still others are agroforestry projects that produce greater crop yields and improve food security. The design and objective of each project is specific to the needs and interests of the communities and shaped by local circumstances, but all reforestation projects help the people to meet their needs while reducing their impact on the surrounding landscape.

Beyond planting trees

Reforestation not only provides significant environmental and economic benefits, but it offers many social benefits as well.

While projects are intended to conserve natural resources, projects can also serve as vehicles to strengthen and unify a community. For instance, prior to EcoLogic's arrival, the citizens of Guaisn in the western mountains of Guatemala were growing seedlings in their own homes to reforest their own plots of land. EcoLogic has helped the community to establish a community nursery, where the people can share in their work to grow seedlings, share in the responsibilities of caring for the nursery, and share in the time and experience of reforesting their lands. The joint effort is not only more efficient in facilitating and coordinating the reforestation activities, but gives the people a greater sense of unity as they work together towards a common goal.
The men of Guaisna in Guatemala gather for a meeting in their nursery, where they grow native species to plant on their land.

In addition, reforestation projects strengthen communities. For the indigenous people of Totonicapn in Guatemala, restoring their forests to protect their water sources is part of the centuries-old forest management practices that are ingrained in the local culture. With EcoLogic's help, the people there are now using modern reforestation techniques to reinforce and build upon an ancient tradition of safeguarding the natural environment.

Outside of Olanchito, Honduras, communities are working together to protect their water sources through a coalition called the Association of Administrative Water Boards of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito (La Asociacin de Juntas Administradores de Agua del Sector Sur de Pico Bonito, or AJAASPIB). Their common interest in protecting their water has led to a coordinated effort to restore their forests, and with EcoLogic's assistance, reforestation projects are now underway. These projects have not only solidified the alliance of communities, but they have given these communities a stronger

voice in the region, as downstream users of these same water sources are turning to the alliance to help them secure fresh water supplies. Municipal governments downstream are now recognizing the importance of these communities and their efforts to protect fresh water sources.

Reforestation activities can empower certain groups too, particularly women. In Felipe Ch'oc's community of Santa Maria Dolores de Ixcn, a nursery was established earlier this year. The nursery is where the people will grow seedlings of different native species to plant - to restore their forests, protect their water sources, and enhance their agricultural lands. But what makes this nursery so unique is not the plants, but rather the people who tend to the plants: the men, women, and children of all ages from the community. Every eight days the entire community comes together to work in the nursery, and while many other nurseries are only tended to by the men, here in Santa Maria Dolores there are over 175 women who actively participate in preparing and caring for the seeds and seedlings. By engaging in reforestation activities alongside their male counterparts, the women of this village are increasing their role in society and strengthening their voice in the community.
In Santa Maria Dolores, men, women and children of all ages work together in the nursery.

Santa Maria Dolores is also providing an excellent example of how reforestation activities can build environmental stewardship. In the nursery, each family is planting the seeds of the plants that will go on their own property, and they tend to those same seedlings as they grow. This fosters a stronger connection between the people and trees, as they invest their time and energy into caring for the small plants. Moreover, oftentimes adults bring their children, and the children see their parents and grandparents caring for the seedlings. When the children ask the adults why they are planting seeds or watering seedlings, the parents impart the importance of the trees to the next generation.

Reforestation activities also serve as educational vehicles, informing the people of the importance of trees while serving as proof of the tangible benefits they provide. For example, in the village of Blue Creek, a small community that sits in the Sarstn mountain range near the border with Belize, a man is growing trees along with his corn on a steep hillside. The trees are of a species called guama - a fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing species that will eventually shade the soil, reduce erosion, and shed its leaves onto the ground, providing a natural fertilizer for the corn. The guama saplings are still small, but the farmer hopes that when they grow to their full height in another year or two, they will help him to produce more corn on the same plot of land. His land
A farmer inspects the guama he has planted on his land

is being used as a demonstration for the rest of the community, to show them how planting trees can help the

in order to improve the growth of his corn.

families to grow more food using less land. This farmer is volunteering his time and land to be the first in his community, and he takes a risk in doing so, but he is confident that the risk he takes will benefit himself and many others in the end.

Bringing real benefits to the rural poor

EcoLogic is proud to be working with local organizations and municipal governments to assist the rural poor in restoring their environment as a means to meeting their needs. Great pride is also taken in helping the people empower themselves, promoting environmental awareness amongst the citizens, strengthening the relationships within and between communities, and giving a new and more important voice to the people in the region.

Felipe Ch'oc realizes that his community has a long way to go before everyone understands the benefits of the forest, and more importantly, before the community has the capacity to both protect and restore the forests and meet their needs. Yet he believes that the village's nursery, by engaging the people and showing them how their own actions can have a big impact, will expand the

environmental stewardship of Santa Maria Dolores. Then, working together, reforesting their land will both restore the environment and help them overcome the greater obstacles they face.