Researchers propose an international program to plant 1 trillion trees on cleared land to slow climate change.
As they grow trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The carbon becomes one of the main components of the wood in the tree and the oxygen is released into the air. This is called carbon sequestration. During the period 1770 to 1880 agricultural settlement by immigrants from Europe cleared millions of hectares of land in Canada. The chance to become landowners in the New World was very attractive and was an unlikely prospect for a European tenant farmer. Some of their farms were on good soil and are still in production. But some farms were small, on poor, rocky soils and steep topography. Many of these farms are no longer in operation. This is typical of our region.
Agricultural economists working for the federal government estimate that there are 5-7 million hectares of marginal/sub-marginal agricultural land that is going out of production in Canada. This idle land offers an opportunity to establish new forests. The best species to plant are conifers, mainly spruce and pine. They grow well on cleared land and provide good rates of carbon sequestration. Conifers are not browsed by our growing deer population and will provide an increase in habitat for forest-dependant wildlife, moderation of spring and storm runoff, reduction in erosion, conservation of water quality and an addition to our wood supply. A national tree planting program would accelerate the establishment of new forests.
Idle land makes no contribution to rural prosperity. During 30 years of growth 1 hectare of conifer plantation will produce 300 cubic meters of wood, capture 360 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and provide enough wood to produce almost 85,000 board ft of construction lumber at our local sawmills.