Pitfalls of tree planting show why we need people-centered natural climate solutions

Pitfalls of tree planting show why we need people-centered natural climate solutions


Tree planting campaigns are promoted as a solution to climate change, because of the ability of trees to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. However, research from the social and natural sciences suggests that tree plantations could have potentially negative consequences for people and ecosystems. In addition to failing to meet ecological targets, plantations can also lead to land alienation and the loss of livelihoods for communities. This paper discusses misconceptions about tree plantations.

Research goals & methods

The authors identify common misconceptions around tree plantations on the basis of a review of literature and suggest ways through which policies and programs related to tree plantations can incorporate the requirements of local people.

Conclusions & takeaways

The researchers outline the key issues with tree plantations including focusing on trees and aboveground carbon capture and not ecosystems as a whole, failing to identify drivers of ecosystem destruction, focusing on plantations when natural regeneration may be more effective, planting trees in ecosystems like grasslands which do not naturally support trees, and incentivizing tree planting rather than long term maintenance. They suggest developing programs with the support and feedback of local communities for long-term success.


Fleischman F, Basant S, Chhatre A, et al. Pitfalls of Tree Planting Show Why We Need People-Centered Natural Climate Solutions. BioScience. 2020. doi:10.1093/biosci/biaa094.


  • Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States