Should we plant more trees?
It's a common question: Should the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County plant more trees to combat climate change? First of all, we do plant a lot of trees. Beyond that it becomes more nuanced. We have varied habitats in DuPage County, including dense woodlands, oak savannas, wetlands, and prairies. These varied and natural ecosystems are home to hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, forbs, and animals, including insects. Not all of the forest preserves are suitable for large scale planting of trees for a variety of reasons.
The best strategy is to restore ecosystems as a whole. Grasslands, for example, can sequester a significant amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide), as described by the University of Wisconsin. By taking advantage of varied natural area conditions in DuPage County, we can preserve and restore woodlands, savannas, and prairies as appropriate for the locality to address climate. After an initial period of work to repair damaged wildlands, a healthy ecosystem emerges that can effectively maintain itself, thereby doing much of the work for us. In short, we do not need to create artificial tree plantations, and still get a great bang for the buck for beautifying the landscape and sequestering carbon.
I am looking forward to seeing a report from the Delta Institute, which the District has recently commissioned to evaluate our opportunities for reducing our carbon footprint, including a review of our natural areas. I can't wait to see what we can still learn!