The History of Tree Plantation Around the World

The History of Tree Plantation Around the World

Humans have acquired and have been practicing tree planting for a long time. Since trees help maintain the balance of nature, planting more trees is important. In this article, we will be learning some concepts related to tree plantation. The primary aim of this article is to throw light on the history of tree plantations around the world.

Let’s look at various aspects of the history of tree plantations around the world!


Orchard and Garden Trees

The ancient civilizations transplanted useful trees that could be clipped into fences, or valued for their beauty or shade, into their gardens and orchards. They not only transplanted trees from the immediate region of natural woodland but also collected and traded them over great distances.

Being great planters, the ancient Romans and Greeks have left evidence of how they planted trees in their extensive horticultural manuals. Their advice included – digging a large enough hole, avoiding damage to roots, and taking care of orientation to sun and wind while replanting. They also emphaed on zero exposure to air for tree roots.

The cultivated apple, the sweet chestnut, the black mulberry, the common walnut, the fig, and the medlar were brought to Britain by the Romans. They were skilled growers and gardeners and had a special name for a tree-tender – ‘the arborator.’ The ornamental gardener was an expert at topiary and hence was called the topiarius.

Planting fruit, nuts, and ornamental trees in gardens continued in the years of peace and prosperity. With large vegetable gardens and orchards of fruit and nut trees, Monastery gardens were the most complex ones initially. During 1154-1189 (the reign of Henry II), the wealthy citizens of London started building large gardens attached to their houses.

The practice of transplanting or undercutting in the nursery to produce a mass of fibrous roots was recommended in 1569 by Dutch writers. Special tools were developed for transplanting,, such as split tubes of metal. Large-scale planting of trees for ornamental effect began in the early 16th century when the prosperity of the great landowners increased. After this period, landowners started extensive planting avenues and plantations to provide timber for various purposes.


Planting for Timber

A lot of experimentation with species choice took place during the ‘plantation movement,’ which started around 1600 and continued into the 1800s, mostly for practical reasons. Beech, oak, elm, ash, and sweet chestnut were planted to produce a range of items from ships’ keels to coffins.

Much new planting was done in Scotland, which had become a fashionable hobby by the beginning of the 18th century. Although European larch became popular toward the end of the century, Scots pine was the most favored species. Landowners in England and Wales produced timber by additional planting in coppice woodlands or by expanding existing woods and parks since new sites for afforestation were fewer than in Scotland.

Due to the changes introduced during the 19th century, many of these plantations in England and Wales weren’t harvested. Stands of oak from the ‘plantation movement’ were unsaleable, and much of today’s ‘traditional woodlands’ are their remains. Private planting almost ceased by the end of the 19th century, which started again after the 1950s.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Britain was almost reliant on imported forestry products and timber. The First World War caused heavy demands and the reduction of imports leading to severe timber shortages. To meet this demand, about 180,000 hectares of privately-owned woodlands were felled. The Forestry Commission started a massive planting campaign was established in 1919 to ensure such a situation could not arise again.

Around 145,000 hectares were planted using conifers and other fast-growing species. Simple mixtures or single species were planted in straight lines, close together in even-aged, large blocks, with little consideration for landscape variations. Most of this planting was on moorland and heathland, destroying or damaging their fragile ecology.

These plantations were too young to harvest when the Second World War started, and a second major felling of around 212,000 hectares of private woodland became necessary. The period from 1945 to 1975 was more damaging. The Second World War caused food shortages, further leading to a policy of enhancing agricultural production and efficiency. Several woods, copses, and hedgerows were removed to increase the area under cultivation and make fields larger and more suitable for modern machinery.

By recognizing the significance of plantations on ancient Woodland sites, the Forestry Commission advised their restoration. As a result, the planting of introduced species on moorland and heathland has virtually ceased. Management is focussing much more on multi-use forests, where wildlife and recreation are highly prioritized. Recently, the Forestry Commission switched to ‘continuous cover’ systems from clear felling.


The Greening of Cities

According to Ebenezer Howard’s approach of low-density housing with trees and green spaces, many towns were established in 1946, and the majority were successful with their urban forestry schemes. However, although some woodlands survived urban expansion, many were felled to make building schemes and roads.

By the 1970s, urban ecology became a distinct discipline, with a huge interest in the conservation, plantation, and management of many urban green spaces. Through the implementation of the community forests, much of this work is being continued. Through a partnership between the Forestry Commission, the countryside agency, businesses, voluntary groups, and local authorities, the 12 community forests were started in England in the early 1990s. This community forest program is expected to last till 2030.


Global Reforestation

In 2019, an international team of scientists explained how restoring forests can slow climate change. Since then, the world has started making efforts toward reforestation, and tree-planting initiatives are being sponsored by various corporations across the globe. Many parts of societies from different countries are contributing to the common goal of planting one trillion trees.

Launched by the World Economic Forum in 2020, this initiative garners a response from most countries. The effects of climate change,, such as melting glaciers and rising sea levels,, have also motivated people to plant more trees globally. Planting a trillion trees over 900 million hectares of degraded land can store approximately 25% of the current atmospheric carbon pool.

Since poorly managed reforestation projects can cause more harm, there’s a strong need to choose the right plant species for the right location. “Conserve, restore, grow”, is the mantra for this initiative which governments worldwide back up.


Forest Restoration

The pace at which deforestation occurs is certainly a huge contributing factor toward climate change. Forest restoration is one of the solutions to tackle climate change and its consequences. Being a specialized form of reforestation, forest restoration encompasses the actions to reinstate ecological processes, which promote recovery of forest structure, biodiversity levels, and ecological functioning toward a typical climax forest.

Forest restoration differs from conventional tree plantations with its primary goals of environmental protection and biodiversity recovery. The forest restoration process focuses on regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being in degraded or deforested regions. With the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, we can restore millions of hectares of degraded forests and other ecosystems.

Forest restoration includes protecting remnant vegetation and planting trees of species contributing to the targeted ecosystem. It is appropriate for regions where biodiversity recovery is one of the primary goals of restoration.


Environmental Conservation

As one of the core issues, environmental conservation must be addressed to battle climate change and its consequences. Environmental conservation is a practice that paves the path for safeguarding the environment and natural resources on the individual and governmental levels. Ranging from ozone depletion, hydrological issues, and global warming to desertification, deforestation, and pollution, all these issues pose a severe threat to the environment.

The methods of environmental conservation include – forest conservation, soil conservation, waste management, public awareness, and pollution control. Environmental conservation is of utmost importance for restoring ecological balance and protecting biodiversity. Stopping deforestation and promoting reforestation are extremely important in the current scenario.


Sustainable Forestry

Also referred to as sustainable forest management, sustainable forestry means managing forests to meet the current needs of society for forest resources without compromising their availability for generations to come. Sustainable forestry conserves our forests for future generations while balancing the current needs of the environment, wildlife, and forest communities.

It refers to the management of forests based on the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forestry balances three main pillars – economic, ecological, and socio-cultural. Since logging is not sustainable, the term sustainable forestry seems to contradict many individuals. However, it works with closely interdependent goals of feeding humanity and sustainably using and conserving ecosystems.



Arboriculture is the combination of cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, and other persisting woody plants. The artistic techniques included in the practice of arboriculture are – selection, planting, pruning, training, fertilization, shaping, pest and pathogen control, and removal. A person who studies arboriculture is called an arborist or a tree surgeon. They are a trained expert in the manipulation and physical maintenance of trees. The major concern of arboriculture is the well-being of individual plants.


Carbon Sequestration

The process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide is called carbon sequestration. This method of reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere focuses on reducing global climate change. Forests and other forms of plant life absorb CO2 from the air while they grow and bind it into biomass. Since long-term sequestration cannot be guaranteed, these stores are considered volatile carbon sinks.


Land Management

Managing the use and development of land resources is called land management. Land resources can be used for various purposes, such as reforestation, organic agriculture, eco-tourism projects, and water resource management. The terrestrial ecosystems may get affected either positively or negatively due to land management.


The above article must have helped you understand how tree plantation has evolved since ancient times. Tree planting helps humans to cater to their different needs and tackle environmental issues.

If you are willing to join hands to save nature by planting trees, stay connected with us at Nelda Foundation. We plant trees to make our planet greener and better.

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