Planting trees is a science


Tree planting is a popular activity for many groups and organizations. It’s relatively easy but many efforts are reported to fail. Why?

According to Haribon’s forester under the Road to 2020 (RT2020) program, Razel Ripalda, “It’s not as simple as we think. It takes special knowledge to ensure or increase the chance of survival.” Planting trees is grounded in forest science and if performed properly can result in successful regeneration of an area.

He noted that factors that should be considered for tree planting are the type of tree species to be used, soil type, soil’s moisture content, topography (or the features, such as mountains and river, in an area of land) and the quality of seedlings (e.g. undergone hardening-off process in the nursery, undamaged roots). All of these guarantee the highest survival rate of tree seedlings.

For example, an endangered tree species like Apitong (Dipterocarpus grandiflorus) which is good for soil erosion control is best planted in shady, low-middle slope of forest with volcanic or clay-rich soil while another endangered tree species like Yakal Saplungan (Hopea plagata) which is good for windbreaks is best planted in slightly shaded, middle-upper slope forest with well-drained soil. The same principles of planting can’t be applied to all species because of their different needs to survive. Apitong seedling requires shade but can be filtered to full bright light when matured whereas Yakal Saplungan seedling needs bright or partial shade to thrive.

“If we want to make tree planting successful, we need to consider many factors. To make sure that the native tree seedlings will survive, Haribon partnered with people’s organizations and local government units so that they can manage the native tree seedlings we have planted along with our company partners and volunteers in the area. Just like a backyard garden, it’s a controlled environment, where one can water and supervise the plant’s growth,” he elaborated.

Ripalda lamented that he often sees incorrect practices in other tree planting activities, which mean that the trees planted may not survive after all the money, time, and effort put in. He continued, “Most of the reforestation project that I know failed due to wrong species selection, poor nursery stock, bad or incorrect planting technique, and absence of maintenance and protection. Haribon’s RT2020 program is not just planting a tree and it shouldn’t just end there. All the native tree seedlings we planted should be maintained for a minimum of three years to ensure their survival.”

Launched in 2005, Haribon’s RT2020 program so far has planted over 39,000 native trees covering more than 600 hectares of the country’s land area. Due to diligence, hard work, and cooperation of the community partners with the organization, the planted native trees have an average survival rate of 93 percent, which is considered exceptionally high by regular standards.

We all benefit from trees. Tree is life. It gives us all the ecological services such as fresh, clean air, water, food, shelter, medicine, and much more. Tree planting is one way of giving back to our environment, and one way of securing our future survival.



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