Overview of Afforestation
Before explaining the advantages and disadvantages of afforestation, I believe it is best to firstly get a clear concept -- as to what actually is afforestation. There are numerous definitions from a range of sources, but I reckon the following definition sums it up quite well : "Afforestation is the process of establishing a forest on land that is not a forest, or has not been a forest for a long time by planting trees or their seeds." In looser terms, it is simply the planting of more trees on non-previous forest land.
Advantages of Afforestation
1. Afforestation Provides Employment - although only on a rather small scale, there will be job opportunities provided for tree planters and organizational force for a mass scale tree planting program. Moreover, there may be additional jobs provided -- if the site were to become a destination for ecotourism.
2. Increasing the Supply of Timber and Charcoal - afforestation can be simply a commercial exercise, in which a company aims to plant trees simply to extract the timber from them. Again relating back to point 1. in which this will provide further job opportunities, whilst increasing the supply of timber for local businesses -- benefiting the welfare of the local economy on two fronts.
3. Trees Provide Habitats for Wildlife - trees are at the source of almost every ecosystem being both a home, food source and place of protection for most species of animal, insect etc. By simply planting more trees you are providing support and encouraging wildlife and ecosystems to thrive.
4. Trees Help Prevent Soil Erosion - trees and their roots help bind the soil together, preventing the process of desertification (Science American Heritage Dictionary Definition: The transformation of land once suitable for agriculture into desert ), which essentially becomes useless dry wasteland.
5. Helps Towards the Climate Change Problem - through the process of photosynthesis (Cultural American Heritage Dictionary: use by green plants of the energy in sunlight to carry out -- the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen ), trees are a form of combating the greenhouse effect which is a contributing cause towards global climate change.
6. Visually Attractive - it is hard to deny that a forest is certainly a lot more attractive to the eye than that of simple desert waste land. Moreover, from this the new forrest -- there could potentially be the encouragement of ecotourism in which the site can also benefit from all the advantages that ecotourism has to offer too.
7. A Useful River Management Method - the process of afforestation also often gets used as a method for river management, through the process of stabilising river banks, as well as acting as an interception of rainwater to go straight into the river. (As well as holding up water in roots which would have potentially would have just gone straight into the river).
Disadvantages of Afforestation
1. Real Opportunity Cost - a potential negative of afforestation is the simple fact of real opportunity cost, the land can no longer be used for agriculture or residential buildings which could perhaps benefit society through greater outputs of food and a greater supply of housing.
2. Disadvantages of Ecotourism - if the site were to be used for ecotourism purposes it may be subject to some of the disadvantages that ecotourism can actually bring such as littering the forrest, potentially harming wildlife etc.
Summary of Advantages and Disadvantages of Afforestation
On balance, you can see that the process of afforestation is a rather positive one, offering numerous benefits to both society as well as environmentally. This accompanied by the fact there are hardly any drawbacks, with the only real aspect being the cost of the lost benefits of having an alternative use on the land. If you have any other advantages and disadvantages of afforestation or any general remarks then I encourage you to please share them in the comment box below.