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The benefits of forests

Plant ecosystems, such as forests, offer many benefits to our societies, due to their nature or their functioning.

Urban or semi-urban plantations on industrial, fallow or degraded land can therefore be very useful for communities to combat climate change and improve the well-being of local populations.

The main benefits of dense and varied plantations

  • carbon sequestration/CO capture2
  • increased biodiversity
  • the reduction of urban heat islands
  • reduced erosion and increased soil permeability
  • the noise barrier
  • phytoremediation (ground/air)
  • improving the well-being of local people

Carbon Sequestration/CO2 Capture

Plant species are able to capture CO2 via photosynthesis to ensure their growth. Depending on the environmental conditions (climate and soil), the species present, the age and the density of the stand, it was estimated that the carbon stocks varied between 15 and 70 kgC.m² (Martin et al. 2001; Luyssaert et al. 2008).

This benefit is one of the best known and most watched from an economic point of view, but it is not the only benefit of forests.

 Forests capture CO2

Increase in biodiversity

The establishment of new plant species on degraded or fallow land will increase biodiversity.

Indeed, the recreation of a forest-type plantation in an urban environment has also made it possible to offer a new habitat for animal species such as insects, birds or even small mammals as well as to increase the connectivity between the territories (green frame). But the biodiversity of the soil and its trophic chain will also benefit from the planting.

Thus, it has been demonstrated that reforestation with Toona sinensis (tea tree) of a degraded karst engenders a strong development of nematode communities (roundworms present in all types of soil), indicating a complexification of the trophic chain (Hu et al. 2016).

 

Bird in a tree in the forest

Reduction of heat islands

Urban areas, subject to climate change, suffer greatly from the phenomenon of heat islands. Overall, the temperature in urban areas has been shown to be 2.5°C higher than in rural areas.

In addition, each 1°C increase will generate an increase in energy demand of 2 to 4% during summer periods, through the use of air conditioners for example (Nuruzzaman 2015).

In order to limit the increase in temperature (and energy consumption) in urban areas, the installation of green areas can be an effective and economical solution.

Thanks to evapotranspiration (exchange of water vapor between the plant and the atmosphere) and the production of shade, a vegetated area can reduce, locally, the temperature by 1.5 to 2° C. This effect may be greater depending on the climatic conditions of the area studied and the type of vegetation established (up to 4 to 6°C, Perini and Magliocco 2014).

 

Reduced erosion and increased soil permeability

Soil erosion causes significant loss of productivity and organic matter content, impacting carbon storage in ecosystems. Much scientific evidence has been provided in recent years on the importance of plant cover in soil preservation. Indeed, a plant cover will reduce erosion and increase the capacity of water-retaining soils (Issaka and Ashraf 2017).

Noise barrier

Forest areas are also an cheap and effective way to reduce noise pollution. A mixed forest has been shown to reduce noise pollution from road traffic by about 15 dB at 50m from the source (Maleki et al. 2010).

 

Phytoremediation of soil and air

Plants are also capable of reducing organic (e.g. hydrocarbons) and inorganic (e.g. heavy metals) soil pollution through various phytoremediation processes. In association with bacterial and fungal strains living in the soil, plants will be able to stabilize, extract or degrade pollution.

For example, it turns out that Betula pendula or Tilia cordata are good candidates for phytoremediation (Dadea et al. 2017). Plants, and in particular tree species, can also filter ambient air from a wide range of pollutants such as fine particles. For example, species of the genera Fraxinus and Salix have very good air-purifying abilities (Grote et al. 2016).< /p>

 

Improving the well-being of local populations

The establishment of forest areas closer to local populations can have a very positive effect on their well-being. Indeed, direct access to natural areas has been shown to lead to better physical and mental health. Local people are also generally more sensitive to ecological issues (Nisbet et al. 2020).

 

At Treeseve, even if, at present, our research and development axes are mainly based on the quantification of carbon sequestration, we intend to estimate the impact of our plantations on all the benefits mentioned above.

 Participatory day in Laon to talk about the benefits of forests

References

  • Martin et al. 2001. Carbon sinks in temperate forests.
  • Luyssaert et al. 2008. Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks.
  • Hu et al. 2016. Community diversity, structure and carbon footprint of nematode food wed following reforestation on degraded karst soil.
  • Nuruzzaman 2015. Urban heat island: causes, effects and mitigation measures – a review.
  • Perini and Magliocco 2014. Effects of vegetation, urban density, building height and atmospheric conditions on local temperatures and thermal comfort.
  • Issaka and Ashraf 2017. Impact of soil erosion and degradation on water quality, a review.
  • Maleki et al. 2010. The effect of pure and mixed plantations of Robinia pseudoacacia and Pinus eldarica on traffic noise decrease.
  • Dadea et al. 2017. Tree species as tools for biomonitoring and phytoremediation in urban environments: a review with special regard to heavy metals
  • Grote et al. 2016. Functional traits of urban trees: air pollution mitigation potential.
  • Nisbet et al. 2020. Connectedness with nearby nature and well-being.
Amélie Saunier

Amélie Saunier

Research & development officer