‘Simply planting trees not enough, we need to cut carbon emission’

Ketaki Ghate, with prolonged experience in ecological restoration of degraded land, gives a lowdown on what trees to plant, where to plant and how to help them survive in summer. She also explains the connect between climate change and trees

IPCC, climate change
Representative photo: iStock

Here’s a summary of the audio podcast:

  1. Monoculture or commercial plantations like nilgiris serve the ecosystem to a certain extent by increasing the green cover, but a holistic approach will show commercial plantation does not contribute much in terms of ecosystem strengthening or ecological restoration.

2. Plant native trees to improve biodiversity. What are native trees? These are the plants that have evolved in a given area for several years. For example in semi-arid areas you see species that are thorny. For eg. Babul. In high rainfall areas, you see ever-green trees.

3. Before plantation, understand the quality of soil and improve its texture and nutrition value. This will have a positive impact on the entire array of biodiversity.

4. Increase organic carbon in soil to attract a variety of microbes and fungi, which ultimately provide nutrition to the soil.

5. Improving topsoil directly results in improvement of ground cover i.e. quality of vegetation. An improved floral composition attracts a range of butterflies, bees and other faunal species.

6. So, instead of going for monoculture, which only creates greenery, let’s look at planting a variety of native species, improving abiotic components like soil and attracting biodiversity. This is a more holistic approach towards mass plantation.

7. Commercial plantation is good if you want to earn money out of it, but if you are looking at environmental benefits, then you should try to plant more native species. If you want to create forest then monoculture won’t work. For eg. Nilgiri plantation simply drains the land of its water.

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Why plantation drives fail?

  1. We plant trees without preparing the soil for it. So first prepare soil to support your plantation. Only then plants will survive. Of course, you need to water them at least for the first 2-3 years.

2. Selection of plants is also critical. Nature herself has decided her choice of plants. You just have to follow it. Look around to see which trees, especially old ones, have survived without any support from people. They are best suited for your conditions and require less maintenance.

3. To protect your plants from grazing animals, choose hardy species which animals do not eat. Or go for fencing, even live hedge, which are the kind of plants that protect your plants from grazing animals. (Check out oikos website to know more about what to plant, where to plant and how to plant).

4. Mulching the plants is of absolute necessity to protect plants from heat. Mulching material could include anything from grass to dry leaves to even plastic.

5. If your plants still suffer, then create some kind of shade. And of course, water them regularly.

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How much water does a plant need?

It all depends on the current status of the soil. If the soil is very dry it will need more water. So first increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil. To start with, increasing mulching so that your soil starts holding more water. Ecological restoration of the land is very important.

Can trees alter climate change?

Trees definitely can mitigate climate change to a certain extent, but for better and more assured results we first need to reduce concretization of our cities. Because whatever little results we achieve by planting trees is negated by heavy infrastructure works like buildings, roads etc which create a ‘heat island’ effect.

To control climate change the most important thing to do is to reduce carbon emission. Tree plantation will only support our effort.