The introduction of too many trees into the African savanna can prevent young plants from accessing sunlight, which will affect the animals that eat them.

Karen Bocki/Global

Ambitious tree-planting projects aimed at restoring forests in Africa may inadvertently damage grasslands and savannas by overshadowing them. This can prevent small plants from photosynthesizing, which will affect the rest of the ecosystem.

In 2011, the Bonn Challenge was launched by the German government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature to restore 350 million hectares of degraded or harvested land worldwide by 2030. As part of this effort, the African Reforestation Initiative was established, with 34 countries on the continent pledging to reforest 133.6 million hectares of land.

But it has raised concerns about how other important ecosystems in Africa could be affected. To know more, Kate Parr at the University of Liverpool in the UK and colleagues compared the size of reforested areas in each AFR100 country with areas of naturally forested habitat.

For 18 countries, they found that the pledged area exceeds the actual forest area, so non-forest habitats should be included in the pledged areas.

Of the 133.6 million hectares deforested across Africa, 70.1 million hectares are non-forested. Ecosystem, mainly grasslands and savannas. “It’s the size of France, it’s huge,” Parr says.

The team also found that 52 percent of the projects already underway are either taking place on grasslands or savannas. About half of these are agroforestry projects. These include planting trees on farmland, which is a non-forested area occupied by non-indigenous people. Species with low overall species diversity.

“Individually, trees are great, but when you have a lot of them, they can really change an ecosystem,” Parr says.

In ecosystems that are open and grassy, The tree Usually grow in a sparse pattern. When large-scale plantings crowd trees together, they can quickly reduce their access to sunlight, harming younger plants. This has a knock-on effect on animals such as zebras that feed on these plants.

Parr says many of the countries involved receive funding to carry out reforestation projects, so there is a financial incentive to plant more trees. “There is also a lack of awareness that planting trees is harming these ecosystems,” she says.

Parr hopes that those in charge of reforestation initiatives will consider the wider impact of where they plant trees, while working with local communities to ensure that people’s livelihoods are not affected. be

Jessica Gurevich Purdue University in Indiana says: “This is an alarming wake-up call for NGOs. [non-governmental organisations]National and international restoration efforts, and the misguided ‘plant a tree’ common public feel that these efforts should be much more controlled and managed, and much more rigorously evidence-based.

A spokesperson for AFR 100 said the move made it clear that grasslands should not be converted to forests. “AFR100 supports many ways to restore health to the continent of Africa, so that people and nature can thrive,” he says. “The authors of this article mistakenly equate restoration with afforestation and assume that AFR100 focuses entirely on the latter, which is incorrect. For example, agroforestry projects improve soil fertility. Add trees to existing crops to improve soil fertility, increase water retention, and reduce topsoil erosion. Agroforestry practices do not convert farmland to forests. These agroforestry projects today are associated with AFR100 restoration. comprise the majority of projects and should be included in any fair assessment of the AFR100.