Nfld. & Labrador

Tree planting alone won't solve the climate crisis, but it's a start, says expert

One of the managers of Tree Canada spoke to forestry industry members in St. John's this week, to emphasize the important role trees play in capturing and storing carbon.

Adding trees can help soak up atmospheric carbon

Frederik Vroom of Tree Canada says trees need to be planted strategically in order to help with carbon emissions. (CBC)

Cities, provinces and people should consider planting more trees to help the climate crisis, although that won't solve the entire problem, says a manager with a non-profit tree-planting organization visiting St. John's this week.

Frederik Vroom of Tree Canada is in Newfoundland and Labrador to address a provincial forestry conference, but his tree-planting message comes on the heels of both national and international strategies to incorporate silviculture into the fight to lower the planet's carbon emissions.

A study in the July edition of the journal Science recommended planting three trillion trees globally as an efficient way to suck up carbon, while the federal Liberals have pledged to plant two billion trees in the next decade as part of that effort.

Two billion may seem like a big number, but Vroom said when you take into account that Canada's forestry industry already plants about 500 million trees a year, it could be achievable with the right plan.

"My main message is to really think clearly about where to put the trees, and what kind of trees where. Not to go too fast and say, 'Hey, we're going to plant two billion trees everywhere and lose them in 10, 20 years,'" he said.

"We have to be smart about it."

Cities, towns and people's yards could all benefit from a bit of greening up, said Vroom, as trees can buffer buildings from wind and thereby reduce heat bills, or conversely give shade in the summertime to save on air conditioning.

A carbon caveat

But the type of tree matters. Fast-growing trees, such as birches or poplars, capture more carbon than slow-growing varieties like spruce or oak. Vroom also recommended planting species native to the area to ensure they are as well adapted to the climate as they can be in a changing world.

Vroom says planting young trees is not only cheaper but gives trees a better chance to adapt to the surrounding climate. (Free Images)

He also said in windy places — such as, let's face it, most of Newfoundland and Labrador — planting small, young saplings will give them ample opportunity to adjust to the weather conditions.

However, all of Vroom's tips come with a major caveat.

"The big problem with our climate is that we emit carbon. So we have to stop doing that," he said.

As the province, the country and the planet wrestle with how to accomplish that, Vroom did say increasing the amount of carbon stored on earth, such as how trees do it, still plays an important role.

But with more volatile weather comes challenges, such as managing pests and dealing with differences in precipitation, which form key parts of his talk to the province's forestry industry, he said.

The industry conference wrapped up Thursday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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