Drones can help replant forests – if enough seeds take root

Researchers identified 10 tree-planting drone companies as well as academic research in India and government reforestation efforts in New Zealand and Madagascar. In Myanmar, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, drones were used to help plant mangroves, a potentially impactful development, as trees were planted near the equator. capture more carbon than those planted elsewhere.

But researchers said few companies have shared success rates or research on how the seeds fare after being dropped by a drone. They called on those involved in the drone seeding to be more open about their results. They call promises to grow a billion trees a year as “propaganda”.

Mikey Mohan is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley and lead author of the article. He believes pledges to grow a billion trees are largely promotional tactics by companies seeking to raise funds from investors. He said half of the social media posts he had seen regarding drones planting trees were about promises to plant a billion trees.

What really matters is how many seeds grow in trees after two or three years, he said, not how many seeds you can drop on the ground in a day.

Researchers cited a 2020 DroneSeed study that found survival rates for some conifer seeds to be between zero and 20 percent, similar to previous efforts to drop seeds from airplanes or helicopters in the United States. United in the 1950s and 1960s. Like other companies in the field, DroneSeed has declined to say how many trees it has planted to date. The company declined to disclose the names of the clients, but said it worked with three of the five largest logging companies in the United States, as well as with nonprofit conservation groups such as Nature Conservancy. .

Five-year-old DroneSeed last month acquired SilvaSeed, a 130-year-old company that is one of the largest private forest seed suppliers on the west coast of the United States. For context, SilvaSeed grows more seedlings each year than the Cal Fire Reforestation Center. The acquisition was prompted, DroneSeed CEO Grant Canary told WIRED, by the fact that Climate Action Reserve, which tracks the environmental benefits of emissions reduction projects, now includes the benefits of reforestation.

“What we are seeing with reforestation and carbon credits is that we are now able to take land that has been burned and make sure there is a source of capital to reforest it,” explains Canary.

In an attempt to make the seeds dropped by drones more viable, companies are applying machine learning and imaging technology to choose the best places to plant trees and guide drone flight paths. They pack the seeds in granules made with ingredients like clay and soil and sometimes throw them into the ground. Each seed capsule is designed to contain the moisture and nutrients that a seed needs to get started.

DroneSeed, for example, contains hot pepper to deter squirrels or other wildlife from eating its containers, which are about the size of a hockey puck. The way these seed carrying cases are made varies. Some contain a single seed, but Dendra Systems says it can pack up to 50 types of native tree, shrub, and herb seeds in a single capsule.

Asked about the propaganda claim, Flash Forest CEO Bryce Jones said the company still plans to plant 1 billion trees by 2028.

Dendra Systems, formerly known as Biocarbon Engineering, is one of the oldest and most well-known companies using drones to plant trees. CEO Susan Graham said the company was created with the belief that one of the main reasons humanity has yet to slow the decline of tree populations is that we are not using enough technology.

“You can solve the biodiversity challenge, you can solve the livelihoods challenge and you can solve the carbon challenge all in one, if you can do it at scale,” she said.

She refuses to say how many trees the company has planted. Environmentalists are employed to verify the results, she says, and the results of their work are shared privately with clients. She says Dendra is now focusing more on the total area she can restore rather than the number of trees planted.

Former Dendra CEO Lauren Fletcher says he came up with the idea of ​​using drones to plant trees in 2008, and was one of the first CEOs to pledge for a billion of trees. He believes no drone planting company has achieved that goal yet, but he thinks it’s worth being an example of the great thinking needed to tackle the issues of restoring global ecosystems.

“The point is, people understand trees. They can see them, they can touch them, they can smell them, and it’s a lot easier to sell, ”he said. “Try to sell soil germs.”

Fletcher is currently working with Dendra Systems co-founder Irina Fedorenko on another venture to plant trees with small drones, especially for small landowners. Thanks to a partnership with WeRobotics, Flying Forests wants to plant trees with drones in 30 countries. He is exploring projects in Kenya, Panama and Uganda.

Drones can help replant forests – if enough seeds take root

Source link Drones can help replant forests – if enough seeds take root

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