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Seedling Establishment Quality: More than Green Side Up

Seedling establishment for reforestation can be done by anyone. Right?

When reforesting a historic industrial development within a forest land region, the proper re-establishment of native plants is a task that can easily be regarded as a simple, repetitive, and obligatory cost. It is work that anyone with a strong back and high tolerance for the resulting muscle pain can do. How hard can it be to carry a bag of seedlings and a shovel, stop every few meters, bend and plant, green side up?

Proper field execution of any reforestation project is a bit more complex, however. In a rush to get projects completed, work can suffer the pressure of management and implementation systems that are production driven. Problems arise from substandard practices associated with seedling handling, microsite selection, and final establishment techniques. Unfortunately, the results of poor reforestation practices, although inevitable, are often delayed by years, preventing efficient mitigation (See Figures 1 & 2). The result: compromised environmental and financial performance.

Disfigured planted trees

Figure 1. Disfigured planted trees established in 2010, excavated during site inspection, site 153004, 2015

Now, let this not be a reason to discount the importance of production. Au contraire! Meaningful production is fundamental in an economically viable management system! So, how do we make production operate at a maximum level and minimize quality control issues? We return to some basics, where we leave the office, exit the pickup truck, and walk the land (shovel in tow) to inspect and audit the performance of our field teams (microsite placement, seedling selection, waste handling, storage quality, etc.). This requires our most experienced, not least experienced professionals, to make sure that the work indicator of quality is more than Green Side Up, that performance feedback is prompt and that poor quality work does not define what is considered acceptable environmental impact mitigation.

Figure 2. Disfigured planted trees, 10 years post-establishment, site 153004.