A July 4 article in The Guardian made the powerful statement that tree planting has "mindblowing potential to tackle climate crisis".
The value from our perspective has been the thorough and widespread discussion this and other such articles provoke among New Zealanders; politicians, farmers and climate activists alike. It will come as no surprise that we support planting trees.
But we would venture to suggest that we should not be tempted to jump on the easy fix of planting forests that sequester carbon for the short-term only, and that planting native trees and investing in permanent native forests is the viable long-term vision for tree planting we need to see in this country.
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Planting trees needs to be more than just about carbon credits for the short-term, and that's where our native trees come to the fore. As well as sequestering carbon long-term, planting natives is about protecting our unique New Zealand identity which is inseparable from our tui, our kererū, our towering tōtara, our kauri, our wētā, our ponga (silver fern).
Planting native trees that support our seriously endangered indigenous biodiversity is the responsibility of all of us as kaitiaki of this land. Our native trees and native wildlife are so closely linked — and we see beautiful examples of that at play in our country.
Our famous kererū is vital to the dispersal of seeds from several native tree species because it is now the only bird able to swallow the largest stone fruits of the taraire, karaka, miro, and tawa. Our native trees provide kai for our native birds who in turn, keep the trees growing — and the cycle continues.
The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report, which so clearly spelled out the enormous threats facing our biodiversity, examined the benefits of native trees and plants for strengthening our ecosystems.
Native forests, for example, regulate the climate (by storing carbon), prevent erosion, and create nectar for honey production. Natural wetlands also provide important ecosystem services (benefits we receive from nature) such as purifying water by filtering out nutrients and sediments, regulating water flow during storms, and storing carbon as peat. Degraded habitats and a loss of species can make ecosystems less resilient to other changes and lead to further declines in biodiversity.
Planting native trees also makes good sense for our economy. We know that visitors come to our country because of the beauty of our natural environment. They come to hike in our native forests, to kayak our rivers and to retreat from the summer sun under the pōhutukawa on our coasts.
The health of our environment is also key to how our produce is valued by overseas markets. Our beef, our dairy, our wine are fortunate to have almost an intrinsic positive perception from international buyers because of it. To preserve that reputation, we need to be leading the way in taking action to protect our flora and fauna.
We acknowledge the view held by many that dealing with climate change is not about mass tree planting alone. At Trees That Count, we are keeping our efforts focused on where we can do the most good.
There is something of enormous value that each and every one of us can do by funding, gifting or planting a native tree.
We want New Zealanders to know there is something of enormous value that each and every one of us can do by funding, gifting or planting a native tree. We hope that loving our native trees, and investing in protecting and planting more, becomes just something that we do. We applaud all the organisations, planters and landowners already doing so.
We're often reminded of the quote: "The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit." Let's continue the conversation, but while we're doing that, let's get to work making a difference.
• Adele Fitzpatrick is chief executive of Project Crimson, which runs the Trees That Count, a national campaign aiming to bring together business, community and everyday Kiwis to help plant 200 million native trees.