As nature intended
When planting trees, we need to make sure the new forest ecosystem can function properly. Ecosia only plants trees in deforested areas where historically there have been trees – often in the shape of a forest, but that could also mean widespread savannah trees.
If there is an area where trees used to grow naturally, we know this area offers an environment where trees can actually thrive.
We work with native species in order to restore the natural situation that existed before. There are occasion exceptions, for example planting non-invasive fruit or nut trees alongside native trees in agroforestry systems, to provide income and food for local communities.
Every natural area in development has their rhythm of species that come and go. On bare land, the first trees prepare the way for other species, because they fix nitrogen or capture water. Certain animals again are attracted by these trees. When restoring an ecosystem, it makes sense to follow the natural succession path of species, as that is the most effective way to get to a new forest eventually.
Ecosia uses an integrated landscape approach that supports nature and people by building corridors, capturing water or changing the local climate positively. We make sure planting trees works in a wider sense and that the activities we support do not stand in isolation.
The trees will only survive if the people in and around the project area understand the benefits the trees bring – which can be a change to the earlier situation that caused the trees to disappear. We want to understand what caused the deforestation and also understand why the project thinks it will not happen again. Assuming that there are benefits, do people understand them and act accordingly?
At Ecosia, autonomy of the people comes first. Even if all benefits seem obvious, if the local people do not agree with the way a planting program is planned, forcing a project upon them is certainly not the way to go. In practice, there will be different views within the community, too. With common sense and an open mind, everyone involved can discuss how and whether we can best work together in the area. The role of women and children is also very important in this process.
Not planting trees
Believe it or not, planting is not always the best way to get trees back! Planting trees means starting with a nursery and transporting them to planting sites where they have been sowed and grown under ideal circumstances. Many young saplings die because they cannot adapt to the harsh world outside.
Of course, we plant trees where appropriate. However, we also support other methods, such as sowing or Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, which are often cheaper and more effective.
We also have a project in Brazil that aims to regrow 25 million trees through firefighting in ten years. Forest fires are a major threat to the Mata Atlântica, and by employing people to manage them, we can restore over 10,000 hectares at a very inexpensive price.