I recently wrote an article for Treehugger on why plastic guards should not be used in tree planting. I know that a lot of people do wonder about how to ensure the survival of trees when planting, so today, I thought I would write a little bit about this topic. Plastic guards are not the answer – so what is?
Whenever any reforestation or afforestation scheme is planned, one of the first priorities should be looking holistically at the site. Goals should be identified. But it is also a good idea to think about the problems and pitfalls that are likely to arise in a given location. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to look at sectors, soil and wildlife, bringing all the elements and characteristics together to reach the right solutions. What may work well here in Scotland will naturally not always be the best solutions elsewhere, where problems and pests will often vary significantly.
Deer, livestock, rabbits and (sadly, especially in cities – humans) are probably the biggest threats here to newly planted trees. Elsewhere, there may be other wildlife posing greater threats.
Tree planting should never be considered in isolation. Trees alone do not make an ecosystem, and the key in any good design is to ensure, over time, that all flora and fauna is in balance.
Protecting young trees short-term may of course be necessary in certain settings, (when plastic-free guard alternatives may be necessary) but broader protective schemes with other vegetation (natural ring-fencing with resilient plants, hedgerows etc..) and holistic management (with plants, and also in certain settings with livestock or other ‘ecosystem engineers’ too) are the things that will really ensure the trees survive long term.
Planting trees only to lose a number of them is dispiriting. But losses can be minimised far more through holistic planning than they can be with plastic guards.