Ethiopia has just planted 353 million trees in 12 hours. It is part of the national “green legacy” initiative to encourage all its citizens to plant 40 seedlings each for a total of 4 billion trees over this summer.

Here is one of the photos Amir Aman, MD tweeted during the day:

And another:

Dr Getahun Mekuria, their minister of technology and innovation tweeted estimates through the day:

As interviewed in the Guardian:

The previous world record for the most trees planted in one day stood at 50m, held by India since 2016.

Dr Dan Ridley-Ellis, the head of the centre for wood science and technology at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “Trees not only help mitigate climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air, but they also have huge benefits in combating desertification and land degradation, particularly in arid countries. They also provide food, shelter, fuel, fodder, medicine, materials and protection of the water supply.

“This truly impressive feat is not just the simple planting of trees, but part of a huge and complicated challenge to take account of the short- and long-term needs of both the trees and the people. The forester’s mantra ‘the right tree in the right place’ increasingly needs to consider the effects of climate change, as well as the ecological, social, cultural and economic dimension.”

Ethiopia plants 350m trees in a day to help tackle climate crisis

This is part of a large scale initiative in Ethiopia to restore its degraded land. See the second half of this video:

(click to watch on Youtube)

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment programme puts it like this, (27 minutes in)

"Why do we not invest an equal amount if not more into a shovel-ready technology so to speak which is nature's way of sequestering and storing carbon? It is actually by investing in our ecological infrastructure and ecosystems in expanding the ability of nature to sequester and store carbon that we have the greatest opportunity to do something.And the wonderful thing is it's not only carbon sequestration, we're also faced with loss of ecosystems that will affect our food security, our water security, we're losing species on an unprecedented rate, so maintaining, restoring, protecting, expanding natural ecosystems has multiple benefits, immediate in terms of climate change but also fundamental to the future of many of the services that we simply take for granted from nature."

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Perhaps we should have a national tree planting day in the UK and a similar project?

The UK does have it’s National Forest started in 1991

(Courtesy of National Forest) - new plantings in dark green, pale green for already existing forest.

The same area in 2016, with new plantings greatly enlarged.

(Courtesy of National Forest)

There is a plan for a new northern forest of 50 million trees

Britain's Next Megaproject: A Coast-to-Coast Forest

More about it here:

If we could follow the example of the Ethiopians, the 55.62 million population of England could plant all of those trees in 12*(105/55.62)*50/353.633= 3.2 hours.

It is important to care for them after you plant them of course.

Without more tree planting the CO2 absorption by UK forests is set to decline as it is less for mature forests. We used to plant 30,000 hectares a year in the 1980s but it is now down to 9,000 hectares a year.

Page 39 of Land use: Reducing emissionsand preparing for climate change

The Committee on Climate Change recommends that we increase to 30,000 hectares and ideally to 50,000 hectares a year which is a rate we reached in 1971. See page 39 of the report Land use: Reducing emissionsand preparing for climate change

England's Forestry Commission identified 5 million hectares of low risk areas for afforestation. That’s enough for 50,000 hectares a year for a century.

The tree density they assume is 188 trees per hectare for crop land, trees planted around fields of conventional agriculture, and 400 trees per hectare for permanent grassland planted with trees.

At 400 trees per hectare, 50,000 hectares is 20 million trees. If we followed the Ethiopian example, with our lower population, then that would involve 12*(105/55.62)*20/353.633= 1.3 hours of tree planting each year, if we had, say, a national tree planting day to plant those trees every year. Their 353 million trees corresponds to 17.65 years at 50,000 hectares a year. Or if you scale it down to our population, then we could do over nine years worth of tree planting at that 50,000 hectares a year in one population wide 12 hours session, if we followed the Ethiopian example.

This shows how much CO2 would be sequestered by these new forests including harvesting of them for the carbon positive - this assumes the ambitious planting rate (I think they mean stepping up to 31,000 hectares a year)

See page 56 of the report Land use: Reducing emissionsand preparing for climate change

There are many other recommendations e.g. for peat land etc.

UK’s potential for new forests is huge. Of course it has to be done in an environmentally sensible way, trees aren’t always the right thing to do. For instance a peat bog is a great asset as a peat bog, stores a lot of carbon, and continually stores more, and it may not be appropriate to drain it and plant trees. Similarly some ancient grassland is of great value, and grassland stores a lot of carbon too, but a mix of trees and grassland works well for livestock too, or things like trees, shrubs and tall grass along field margins.

One recent study found huge potential for CO2 removal from new forests. The UK particularly has vast potential because we have a lot of land where you can grow trees that does not encroach on cropland.

Importantly this map also leaves out natural grassland and wetlands, it’s only degraded ecosystems that otherwise would have trees. The UK is naturally covered in trees, especially in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the West coast. It is grassland but it’s grassland that originally had forests, now gone.

To give a brief history of how our landscape ended up like this, I’ll paraphrase the intro to Deforestation | Trees for Life

14,000 years ago if you’d visited Scotland all you would have seen is tundra, as in Siberia, stretching in all directions. And that was just after the end of the ice age. Any time before then, all you would have seen over most of Scotland are vast ice sheets.

Würm Glaciation - Wikipedia - Europe from 20,000 to 70,000 years ago in the Würm Glaciation.

Ice and our landscape

So the forests themselves are ancient but not that ancient.

About half of the ancient forest was already gone when the Romans reached the UK, through felling for timber, fuel and agriculture. Then removing the trees would also make the land wetter and remove sources of leaf litter, leading to the land turning into peat.

Then pastoral activity, over grazing, combined with climate effects such as the Little Ice Age starting in the fourteenth century continued to reduce the forests, also forests burnt to eradicate wolves. By the eighteenth century it reached an all time low. Sheep farming, deer for sporting estates, and muriburn on grouse moors continued to push the forests into decline.

These denuded areas have developed a rich biodiversity as a managed ecosystem, but we should be under no illusions that the Scottish hillsides with their vast moors are a natural ecosystem. They are as much influenced by humans as, say, a ploughed field, or a water meadow, in their own different way.

It is also a landscape shaped by forest fires. Our pine trees are adapted to fire. That’s the reason for the thick bark, a trate evolved 126 million years ago Fire‐adapted traits of Pinus arose in the fiery Cretaceous.

The Scots pine seedlings need a lot of sunlight and can’t germinate below a thick stand of Scots pines, instead they are taken over by other species. Pinus sylvestris

You see a few Scotts pines here and there in the modern Scottish landscape - and usually there are no young ones left. These are the last remains of ancient forests that used to cover this landscape as far as you can see. The red deer are eating any saplings that spring up, so once these trees die there will be no next generation of Scotts pines without human help.

Scotts pines near Invercauld house, with red deer in the foreground - though attractive, there are too many of them for our forests. They used to be kept under control by wolves before humans hunted the UK wolf to extinction - but with no wolves left they have no predators apart from humans. They are now kept under control by humans culling them - without that the numbers would soar and they would die in vast numbers from starvation. But there are still too many of them for the natural forest to regenerate.

Deforestation | Trees for Life

Then in WWI and WWII the forests were used for the war efforts too, and after WWI in 1919 then they realized that Britain had almost run out of timber, leading to establishment of the Forestry Commission to help Britain become self reliant in timber.

They used fast growing introduced species such as Sitka spruce which support a much reduced biodiversity in our country and many native woodlands were further damaged or felled. The priorities are changed now, and the Forestry Commission is doing excellent work to reverse the situation, and then there are other initiatives to reverse and restore ancient biodiversity such as the Trees for Life project.

Scotland has its restoration of the Caledonian forest is a good example of this. Short example here:

(click to watch on Youtube)

TED talk about it:

(click to watch on Youtube)

Other places with a lot of potential include the temperate forest region of America’s southa dn EAst and the Australian tropical east coast.

Those are from a study that found that tree planting has potential to remove two thirds of the CO2 that humans have put into the atmosphere to date.

There are 5.5 billion hectares of forest (at least 10% tree cover and no human activity) with a total of 2.8 billion hectars of tree canopy cover

The study found that tree could be regrown on 1.7 - 1.8 billion hectares of land in areas with low human activity and not used as urban or agricultural land. About half of it, 0.9 hectares would be tree canopy.

These are not areas of natural grasslands or wetlands, but degraded ecosystems that naturally would have tree cover but have lost it.

The study also found that global warming would increase tree cover in the northern Boreal forests like Siberia where there is 30–40% tree cover but would be outweighed by losses in tropical forests with 90 - 100% tree cover.

"Our forests are the world's biggest natural ally in the fight against climate change but without them, we will lose the fight to keep global warming below 1.5 C. That's why it's crucial that we act to restore forests whilst drastically cutting our global carbon emissions. This new research demonstrates how much natural capacity our planet has to grow and sustain additional forest; now, the challenge is to understand how and where we can accelerate this implementation, whilst still feeding our growing global population.

"Tackling the climate crisis and restoring our forests requires unprecedented levels of co-operation and support at both a local and global level, supported by initiatives such as Trillion Trees that are accelerating delivery on the ground. We have the solutions at our fingertips; we just need the global political will to fight for our world."

They have a map you can explore and zoom in to find the forest restoration potential anywhere in the world.

Maps - Crowtherlab

The study is here:

The global tree restoration potential

Sadly it is behind a paywall but there is a good detailed article about it here which I used as a source.

For the Scottish forests, find out more here:

And my longer article here:

This whole topic area is so hugely misreported recently. We face serious issues yes, but not apocalyptic or end of civilization or human extinction level.

You need to go to the scientists themselves and the press conferences to get the original positive messages. Almost nobody reports the central messages that the scientists ask reporters to give to the world.

See also my


If you are scared: Seven tips for dealing with doomsday fears which also talks about health professionals and how they can help.

If in the middle of a panic attack, see


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