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Planting trees is critical to fighting climate change, but we don’t have enough baby trees: study

The U.S. doesn’t have enough stock and diversity to combat climate change with tree planting, study finds

Published July 31, 2023 7:19PM (EDT)


Volunteer planting a tree (Getty Images/pipat wongsawang)

By 2030, the World Economic Forum is planning on planting a trillion trees around the world in an international effort to combat climate change. Tree planting has long been hailed as a potentially powerful way to reduce carbon emissions by pulling carbon from the air and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Hence, there have been many efforts to double down on tree planting. But a study published in the journal Bioscience today raises concerns about a potential barrier that could endanger these efforts in the United States: tree nurseries don’t have the species diversity needed or even enough trees to meet such ambitious plans. 

A team of researchers at the University of Vermont studied 605 plant nurseries across 20 states and found only 56 grow and sell seedlings in the volumes needed for successful reforestation efforts, and only 14 are government-operated. In the study, the team of researchers emphasize that a massive increase in seedling production and diversity at U.S. nurseries are necessary for any successful tree planting campaigns to happen.

“The world is thinking about a warming climate — can we plant towards that warming climate? We know we’re losing ecologically important species across North America and around the world. So, the goal is: can we restore these trees or replace them with similar species? It’s a powerful idea,” Peter Clark, the lead author on the new study, said in a news release. “But — despite the excitement and novelty of that idea in many policy and philanthropy circles — when push comes to shove, it’s very challenging on the ground to actually find either the species or the seed sources needed.”


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