#ClimateChangeChooseday: Are Trees the solution to Climate Mitigation?

It’s Spring Day and Arbor Week, so we are encouraged to buy and plant some trees.

Much has been made of the ability of trees to store carbon, thereby offsetting harmful by-products of fossil-fuel burning.

Spekboom works well as a hedge in the right area of the country. (Photo Random Harvest)

Spekboom has become all the rage recently and can reach a height of 5m. However, Portulacaria afra is not indigenous to the Highveld and, even though it is described as a wonder plant for absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, botanists advise that it should not be planted without consultation with a rehabilitation specialist. There are a couple of spekboom labyrinths which sound most appealing, but alas not for us in Gauteng.

Examining the use of trees in carbon sequestration, the Smallholder has already written about the research that some South African researchers in the fields of biological sciences and climate change have concluded, where they are seriously questioning the wisdom or efficacy of planting large numbers of trees, particularly in grasslands such as we have in Gauteng.

Although highly fragmented, the Highveld contains the greatest expanse of remaining grassland in southern Africa. However, while the Grassland Biome is very rich in plants, with nearly 3800 plant species recorded, because fires are frequent, there are very few woody plants like trees.

So we would be going against nature if we were to try to establish large forests in Gauteng.

We’re not saying don’t plant trees, we’re just saying don’t think you are going to save the planet this way.

So why would you plant trees? Well, they produce oxygen and they clean the air by trapping dust, pollen and other pollutants. They provide shade for us and our livestock. They also provide shelter from the wind for our crops and our livestock. Sometimes they provide food for humans and our animals.

And we should never underestimate their effect on our emotions and stress levels. They help us to relax, lower heart rates and reduce stress.

Frost hardy Leucosidea sericea is a beautiful shade tree. (Photo Tree SA)

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