Planting methods & techniques

Every tree-planting project is different and requires its own individual strategy. We are working together with our partners with the long-term survival rate of the trees in mind. In this article we will take you to the field with us, explain what our approach to planting trees is and what methods our partners use to plant. 

Our guiding principles

At Ecosia we do not just plant, but also look at the best methods to bring trees back. Therefore we look holistically at landscapes and encourage our partners to use the right mix of techniques to improve it, whereby regenerative practices play a crucial role. When it comes to tree planting we stand by these principles:
  1. We don’t plant monocultures
  2. We don’t use any pesticides
  3. We plant species native to the area. 
We have a community-approach: We always work together with local people, and trust in their knowledge. We enable them to exchange with each other and also want to share our own lessons learned with our partners and the world. 

Planting approaches

There are different ways of approaching planting trees, from encouraging small-hold farmers to plant on their own land to large scale restoration projects. We support approaches that will assure the survival of the trees having ecological biodiversity and social economic factors of the projects in mind. 

Which trees do we plant

In all our projects native tree species are always strongly preferred, but where it makes sense we sometimes allow room for up to 10% exotic species. The non-native species have to benefit the area in another way, for example, by providing a source of food, but we always exclude exotic species that are invasive. 
When planting trees, we need to make sure the new forest ecosystem can function properly. As a rule we only plant trees in deforested areas where historically there have been trees and focus our efforts in the planet’s biodiversity hotspots.  

Planting trees on a large scale for restoration purposes

Large Scale Landscape Restoration projects focus on bringing back forests where they used to be and protecting living forests from daily threads. We use an integrated landscape approach that supports nature and people. 
That holistic approach to tree planting ensures that the activities we support do not stand in isolation. Trees will only survive if the people in and around the project area are involved and receive the benefits that the trees bring – which can be a change to the earlier conditions that caused the trees to disappear. 
One way of large scale restoration projects for example tree planting for forest corridors. We do so for instance with our project partner IPE in Brazil or with the Jane Goodall Foundation in Uganda. 

Example: Brazil/IPE Forest Corridors, Uganda JGI (connect remnant patches for chimpanzees and other wildlife to travers)

Planting trees for people through agroforestry projects

Agroforestry describes the benefits of tree planting in combination with agricultural practices. In this approach, trees help support the growth of fresh fruit and vegetables which provide a source of both food and income for local communities. 

In Senegal with our partner Trees for the future trees help farmers to have higher crop yields
Lush tomato fields in Ethiopia are only possible because of the trees as they amount of shade, help regulate water cycles and improve soil fertility

Protection and doing nothing

Believe it or not, planting is not always the best way to get trees back! Approaches of natural regeneration, such as sowing or assisted natural regeneration of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), are often cheaper and more effective. 
In some areas, we can’t plant trees. The climate in Iyenge, Tanzania, has become too harsh for tree saplings to survive. Our Tanzanian tree-planting partner uses FMNR. They find a shrub and prune all of its branches except one or two. This removes competition and makes the plant grow, quite quickly, into a tree. The survival rate of those trees is extremely high, because they already have roots and are well adapted to the hot climate.

Shrubs grow into trees in Tanzania

We also have a project in Brazil that aims to regrow 25 million trees through firefighting in ten years. Forest fires are a major threat to the Mata Atlântica, and by employing people to manage them, we can restore over 10,000 hectares at a very inexpensive price.

Techniques of planting trees

There are various tree-planting techniques available and they are not mutually exclusive, there is agroforestry planned as corridors, planting trees with seedlings from nurseries or direct seedling in combination with protecting areas and natural regeneration. So let’s dive into the different techniques of tree-planting. 
In order to maximize impact, we first try to understand what is going on on the ground as well as  underlying causes of deforestation and adapt how we intervene. It is also crucial to ensure that the communities are on board with the project and will also benefit from it. This will not only ensure better socio-economic outcomes, but if the communities benefit from the project then the trees are more likely to be taken care of and survive in the long-run. 

Planting seedlings from nurseries

Planting seedlings involves the transfer of young, cultivated plants— known as seedlings—from a nursery environment into the garden or field. A nursery serves as a specialized facility for germinating and raising young plants before they are ready for transplantation into their final growing location.

Direct seedings and half-moons

Direct seeding involves planting seeds directly in the garden or field. While certain crops benefit from being initially grown indoors to seedling size before transplanting outdoors, others are best suited for direct sowing in the soil.
Half-moon seedling technique is a specific method of direct seeding used in dry areas., where it rains heavily at least once per year, during the rainy season. Half-moon shapes in the soil help to reduce soil erosion and prevent water loss. For example our partner Hommes et Terres is using this technique. 

Natural regeneration and FMNR

Natural regeneration refers to the spontaneous growth and renewal of vegetation in a specific area without direct human intervention. This process occurs through the natural dispersal of seeds, root sprouting, or other natural mechanisms, leading to the establishment of new plant life.
FMNR stands for Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration, which is a land restoration and agroforestry practice. In FMNR, farmers actively manage and encourage the natural regeneration of trees and shrubs on their land. By selectively pruning and protecting the regenerating vegetation, farmers enhance its growth and contribute to sustainable land management. FMNR is often employed as a cost-effective and community-driven approach to restore degraded landscapes and improve agricultural productivity.

Fostering exchange and innovation in tree-planting practices

Ecosia encourages partners to try innovative approaches or techniques to enhance current planting practices. We connect organizations from around the world in the Ecosia Partner Network to foster exchange between our partners and to learn from each other.
Here are some examples of our partner on how they are innovating tree-planting:
  • In Brazil Instituto Espinhaco is using hydrogel on their planting sites. The biodegradable material stores water which can extend planting periods and is most effective in drier conditions. 
  • Plastic still plays an important role in tree-planting, for instance as growing pots in nurseries. Our partner organizations tackle the issue with reducing and or replacing it in their supply chain. Tree aid in Ghana partly explores recycled plastic bags as an alternative. In Morocco our partner High Atlas introduces recycled tubes in fruit tree nurseries. Trees for Humanity in Uganda developed alternatives for plastic pots from organic materials like banana leaves.
Another way is innovation in business practices or social innovations in the regions where our partners are active.
If you are interested in more stories from the field, we recommend you to visit our youtube channel, where we publish a new tree update every month. 
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