A guide to reforestation: how it is done, what benefits it generates, and some projects in Italy and around the world

5 minutes
Progetti di riforestazione in Italia

What is meant by reforestation?

Reforestation is the most commonly used term for planting trees, but it is only sometimes the most correct one. When it comes to planting new trees, a more generic and appropriate term should be used: forestation.

Related to the term “forestation” are some similar ones, but they indicate different actions. “Reforestation” refers to planting trees where a forest has been destroyed or degraded. One can then plant forests where there were none before; in such cases, it is called “afforestation.” Or stopping the destruction of forests, which is called “deforestation.” Finally, when we do not plant trees but protect the land where conditions are favourable and let the forest expand spontaneously, we speak of “protection” or “conservation.”  

To better understand these concepts, we will give examples. 

If, on a piece of land in the Po Valley -where agriculture has been practised for hundreds of years- we decide to plant a forest, then we are doing afforestation. 

If we plant trees in mountain land in an area affected by the well-known 2018 storm Vaia, then we are doing reforestation. 

When a forest is being cut down to build infrastructure for urban areas, we are doing deforestation. 

In other cases, we talk about forest conservation when a protected area is created where no trees can be cut. 

These terms are often associated with rainforests such as the Amazon, but they occur in every corner of the planet, even in Italy. 


What is the purpose of reforestation?

Reforestation generates many significant benefits. By restoring forests, they give us back services that humans can enjoy, so-called ecosystem services. Some examples of ecosystem services are providing drinking water, clean air, wood and other products used in industry, soil maintenance, and the absorption of CO2 that contributes to climate crisis mitigation. 

Ecosystem services are any actions that the ecosystem performs that benefit humans and other living things. They are often processes that we take for granted, but we need to become more aware of them so as not to underestimate the importance of forests. Indeed, those who manage forests and plant new ones are responsible for many services that benefit the whole community.

Reforesting to protect biodiversity

One of the most important benefits forests provide is preserving biodiversity. Biodiversity represents the variety of living organisms on our planet. But how is biodiversity so relevant to our well-being? And what do forests have to do with it?

The explanation could be very complex, but it can be simplified as follows: imagine the earth and all its processes, which are capable of generating the resources that allow us to thrive and on which our economy is based. These processes require balance to maintain themselves, which biodiversity helps to ensure. Biodiversity in this context is therefore synonymous with stability: the greater the biodiversity, the more stable the balance of living things and the better the processes of our planet are maintained.     

Forests, in particular, are the richest ecosystems on earth. They are home to more than 80 per cent of the earth’s animals, plants, and insects. That is why it is essential to care for and expand existing forests through reforestation, afforestation, and conservation. 

How is reforestation done?

Are we sure that planting trees is enough to do reforestation? Much more is needed. First, science-based planning is required. Species suitable for site conditions must be chosen. After planting, care is necessary, which is essential in the first five years. Finally, a lot of patience is needed because trees grow slowly; it may take many years before you get the forest you envisioned. The economic aspect is also to be considered: each stage, from planning to the mature forest, involves expenses. 

Therefore, it is clear that to create a forest, there are many more elements to consider than just the cost of the individual plant. The good news is that after the initial growth period, the forest requires minimal management and brings many benefits, so in the end, the cost is virtually zero!

Reforestation projects in Italy and the world

Following the World Climate Conferences (COPs), governments, associations, and companies have made numerous commitments, and ambitious initiatives have been activated in every corner of the planet. For example, the United Nations Environment Program has launched a campaign to plant 1 trillion trees, and the EU wants to plant 3 billion by 2030. Numerous initiatives have also sprung up in Italy. 

In Italy, forests cover 37 per cent of the national surface area and are expanding naturally. Despite this, it is crucial to create new forests, especially where ecosystems are under more significant anthropogenic pressure. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), 100 per cent of ecosystems in the Po Valley are at risk.

Planting new forests in these areas is essential to protect existing protected areas and recreate habitats that have been destroyed by the pressure of human activities in these regions (mainly agriculture, cities and industries). With this aim, Etifor has activated afforestation and reforestation projects in various parts of Italy, including many in the Po Valley. For example, with the BioClima initiative, new forests have been planted in 12 different areas of Lombardy, most of them in the plains and along rivers. 

How to support reforestation?

At Etifor, we work on reforestation projects, ecosystem restoration and the protection of existing forests. With nearly 300,000 trees planted, we are the number one Italian organization participating in the European campaign to plant 3 billion trees by 2030.  

We can help you develop innovative forestry and environmental projects, based on science and certified to the highest international standards, that will generate positive impacts on land and ecosystem services. 

We are planting forests in many areas in Italy and abroad. If you would like to contribute to reforestation, you can choose the area that interests you most and come in person to plant your tree or if you prefer, give it as a gift: help us regenerate forests!