An article in The Guardian from earlier this month is bring awarness to the lack of tree monitoring in the UK’s plan to increase tree cover as part of their environmental improvement initiative. 

“Billions of pounds of taxpayer money could be being wasted planting trees that end up dying because government tree targets are focused on planting rather than survival, they argued, amid concern that saplings were dying because they are often neglected.”

Helena Horton, Environmental Reporter for The Guardian

And it’s not just in the UK. Countries and organizations around the world, eager to plant their way out of climate change, are missing the most important part of successfully deploying trillions of trees—keeping them alive.

As anyone who has planted a tree knows, they need care and attention during the establishment period or you risk losing your investment. Water levels, damage to the tree, and other disturbances need to be monitored and addressed early on to ensure your tree survives the critical first five years. 

While taking care of a few trees in your backyard seems feasible, how do you maintain a forest? 

At Project Forest we conduct annual monitoring surveys at each of our rewilding sites. They begin after the first growing season and continue for up to five years, or until the site is on track to become a mature forest. 

During our annual monitoring survey, a survey team counts and measures trees on the ground to determine the average tree survival rate, makes note of factors affecting tree growth as well as other plants growing in the area. After the survey is completed, Project Forest receives a report detailing the conditions of the site and if any preventive or corrective measures are needed. 

Do the trees we plant die? Sometimes.

The 2022 Project Forest Golden Ranches annual monitoring survey recommended a fill plant be carried out due to a tree mortality event identified in four areas, totalling 8.5 hectares of the 55 hectare site. After an inspection of the site, Scott Formaniuk, Project Forest’s Chief Forester, suspected a high vole population—supported by previous agricultural crops on the land—was the cause of the higher than expected tree mortality. The previous 18 months of extremely dry conditions, likely also contributed to the challenging early establishment conditions at the site.

A behind-the-scene look at our annual monitoring survey at Project Forest Golden Ranches.

In the fall of 2023, Project Forest held our Corporate Planting Events at Golden Ranches and our corporate planting partners helped us replant over 4000 trees. Through our annual on-the-ground monitoring surveys, we are able to act quickly to address factors affecting the growth and health of our forests, and share that information with our partners in our Annual Project Reports.

With years of rewilding experience under our belts, we know that some tree mortality will occur, that’s why we budget for monitoring and fill plants on every project.

Tree planting vs. tree establishment: with us, you don’t have to choose.

At Project Forest, we don’t just plant a tree and walk away. We plant a tree (well, more than 400,000) and come back the next year, and the next, and the next… We come back until the forest is on track to becoming just that, a big, beautiful, thriving forest. 

We want you to be proud of the investment your organization is making in the forest of the future.

If you’re already a partner, you should feel proud that your investment is not just going to planting forests, but to establishing them. If you’re not a partner yet, schedule a call, we’d love to tell you more about how we can work together.