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Pocket Full Of Acorns

An alternative view of the roll of trees

Another view of the effects of planting trees.

Planting trees may create deserts
00:01 29 July 2005 news service
Fred Pearce
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Forestry Research Programme
Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Planting trees can create deserts, lower water tables and drain rivers, rather than filling them, claims a new report supported by the UK government.

The findings - which may come as heresy to tree-lovers and most environmentalists - is an emerging new consensus among forest and water professionals.

“Common but misguided views about water management,” says the report, are resulting in the waste of tens of millions of pounds every year across the world. Forests planted with the intention of trapping moisture are instead depleting reservoirs and drying out soils.

The report summarises studies commissioned over the past four years by the Forestry Research Programme, funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development.

It agrees that, in some places, the environmental nostrum works: trees trap moisture from the air and bind soils that prevent floods, store water and nourish the environment. But it says that in other places, trees suck up moisture from the soil, evaporate water from their leaves, lower water tables, empty rivers and create deserts.

This matters especially when trees are planted specifically to protect water supplies, says chief author John Palmer of the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, London, UK. Often, he says, “projects intended to improve water conditions in developing countries may be wasting massive amounts of money”.

Steady flow
Panama is currently seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from the World Bank to plant trees to increase water flow into the reservoirs that feed the Panama Canal. There is, Palmer says, no scientific justification for this plan.

But not everyone agrees. Robert Stallard, a hydrologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama backs reforesting the canal’s watershed. He says forested watersheds may deliver less water, but they deliver it in a steadier flow.

Forests are not always bad, the authors concede. “We’re not saying they never produce water benefits or that they don’t have an important role in the ecosystem,” says Ian Calder from the University of Newcastle. “But if we are trying to manage water resources effectively, the simple view that more trees are always better is bad policy.”

Hurting not helping
The studies found that in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, when fields were converted to forests to provide more water for reservoirs, they actually reduced water yields from the land, by 16% and 26% respectively.

In South Africa, the spread of foreign pine and eucalyptus trees across the country has cut river flow by an estimated 3%. The country is currently employing some 40,000 people to uproot many foreign trees. And it taxes plantation owners for their hydrological damage.

High in the mountains of Costa Rica, researchers found that forests do not harvest moisture from the clouds, as previously supposed. Chopping them down in many places barely alters rainfall, according to Sampurno Bruijnzeel from the Free University of Amsterdam, who contributed to the project.

Who has a vested interest in propogating this absurdly biased view? What it fails to recognise is the locations in which trees are planted. No trees on the coastline means no moisture crossing onto the land and falling as rain = tinder dry trees inland and depleted ground water levels. Plant trees from the coastline working progressively inland and the rain will follow!!!!! Do scientists deliberately ignore the way that nature works?


A Pocket Full Of Acorns

Download the original Leaflet here:

Please adapt this project as your own and distribute in your area or email it to a friend: It Works!

A Pocket Full Of Acorns

Acorns on a tree

The messenger

In 1995 while driving home on a dual carriageway in Torquay, Devon, I saw what appeared to be an injured bird three cars ahead. The cars in front of me drove over the bird but did not hit it. Having pulled over and picked up a beautiful green and red male woodpecker, I put him on the passenger seat, ignoring the beeping horns of impatient drivers. Continuing home hoping that I would be in time to save this unfortunate chap, I looked into his eyes as they rolled back in his head as he gave his last breath. I held one hand on his motionless breast in the hope that he still had some signs of life. Saddened and angered I continued to drive.
About four or five minutes later, I caught a glimpse, In the adjusted mirror, of what appeared to be a breath from the injured woodpecker, then to
my astonishment he began to come around dragging himself over and placing his head on my lap, staring directly into my eyes. Jan, a friend who knows a bit about wounded animals, nursed him back to health and we eventually released him into a copse in the Westerland valley near Paignton in Devon. I still to this day hear a woodpecker in the copse and wander if it is the same chap that rested his head on my lap.
The message was very clear that day and will stay with me forever and is the reason for the following offering. A Pocket Full Of Acorns

Having recently been told the story of the old shepherd and a soldiers chance meeting in France, during the war, I would like the chance to share
it with you.

The soldier watched as the shepherd attended his sheep, and was curious as to his habit of dropping something into the soil and heeling it into the
soft earth. He was in fact planting acorns as he tended his flock, and had been doing so for many years. As the soldier looked around him, he noticed that all the trees he could see were in fact oak, from mighty oaks to saplings. He later found that the old shepherd was entirely responsible for the creation of this magnificent oak forest and all it's inhabitants. One cannot help wandering why the human race does not see the wisdom in replanting the trees that we have squandered.


"For man has no deeper or older debt than the one he owes to the tree.

In addition to mans devastation natural disasters frequent the Earth, like the Dutch elm disease or the recent fires in Australia, Spain, Burma,
Indonesia and the USA. Or floods, mudslides and storms-often amplified by the absence of trees wreak havoc as they level the last remaining remnants of once great woods and forests. One such storm visited the UK one-day in 1987 and left a trail of destruction with the loss of over 19 million trees. How simple it would be to follow the wonderful example of the French shepherd and carry a forest in our pockets. Full of acorns, or cherry, chestnut, horse chestnut, maple, beech, hazel, apple, or any other kind of native tree seed we could turn this tide of destruction. Locating suitable sites, even in built up areas is very easy, gaining permission to create woodland takes time, but you will succeed if you are persistent. Use the media to encourage landowners to join you and to invite people to bring and plant their seeds and saplings. Design and Display a "Pocket Full of Acorns" sign at the entrance to your site to indicate that this particular area is to be transformed into woodland or forest. Each time we visit the English moors to revel in the barren wastelands that we call our "National Parks?" We should remember that these were once great forests, teeming with life. Wild boar, bear, deer and wolf, to mention a few all roamed what was once great forest. Our ancestors whose epitaph lays in
the stone remnants, littered all over these lands used fire in order to drive the animals out of the trees so they could be killed in comfort, with
no regard for their actions or the future of our planet. Grasses were planted to feed domesticated animals and to make bread, spelling doom for
all trees until the land became so impoverished man was forced to abandon it. Today in certain parts of the world like Indonesia this strange tradition is still implemented. But I wander how many of us realise that the moors are still moors because they are still burned in the same way. Perhaps not for the same reasons but with the same devastating results!
Farmers in the UK are now forbidden to burn straw because of its affect on our environment. Sooner or later all burning must stop. I have recently
visited Snake Pass in the Peak District, only to find dead and dying trees and vast areas of soil erosion. The native Australians like the ancient Egyptians have continued to burn their land and have succeeded in reducing almost all of their land to desert. When we realise just how simple it would be to take a pocket full of seeds, from a tree, with us on our day out and heel them into the soft earth, just like the old shepherd in France. I can't help wandering how long it would take to re-forest the barren hills instead of trampling the fragile earth with our designer walking boots.

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat

Soon we will be thinking of Christmas. The Christmas trees are already growing and will be ready for harvest, to adorn with decorations and take
pride of place in our home for a few weeks. When the feasting is over they will be dumped in country lanes or tossed aside like the unwanted puppy. Why don't we care for these trees that have been tended for so long?
Purchased with their roots intact, placed in a pot and kept moist over Christmas they could easily be re-planted, so that in time we could visit
our Christmases past with pride knowing that they will remain long after we have perished. THE MEDIA should now realise that this is quite within their grasp to make this happen. All it would take is a small announcement and who knows where it will lead us? It has been known for sometime that violence can be linked to the viewing of violence on t.v. There is nothing to say that the reverse will not happen when viewing hope on our screens. The press should also realise that in order to print future editions, guarantees must be fixed in place now to ensure that timber supplies are to be available into the next century. A commitment by Europe to replace it's forgotten forests may go a long way to show by example, the futility in the constant destruction of our environment. Or perhaps by replacing our own forests we may reduce the demands imposed on the last remaining tropical rainforest in the developing world. "Please find it in your hearts to give it a try this year.


The vision


I can see school projects springing up everywhere around the World, cultivating saplings and organising school trips to the peoples new forest!
In Britain we could visit the Dartmoor New peoples forest. Now that would be something to be proud of. Instead of a paper-chase, (a race where paper is left in a trail for others to follow), we could leave a trail of tree seeds and instead of picking up paper we could tread the seeds into the soil and leave a trail of trees behind us. Remember though, not everyone is interested in our environment, so be sure to gain permission before planting trees in sensitive areas. The human race (which incidentally is being lost), has an in-built fear of the forest and its darkness. Perhaps it is for this reason that we are reluctant to allow its natural regeneration? Or perhaps we still hold the miss-conception that greater profits are achieved by exporting live horseflesh. Or perhaps hunting down stags in plus fours and high-powered rifle is easier without the foliage for them to hide in?

The last fifty years or so have left nothing but devastation for our environment. It need not be this way. All it will take is a little understanding that a few seeds will make our world a better place for all our children. It may yet even redeem us from going down in history as the most destructive species of all time.

What can I do to help?

First and foremost, the next time you see a native tree full of seeds grab a handful and give Mother Nature a helping hand. God knows she needs it now more than ever before, (try not to plant damaged seeds). You may edit and use this message to encourage the planting of trees. If you
are from another part of the world, translate, edit and reproduce this message to suit your native species of trees. Or simply print it and
photocopy it. Distribute it by including it in your web page, or Email it to everyone you write to. Ask your school to locate some land and plant a woodland reserve. Ask your local press, television and radio if they can help to locate land and spread the word. If you know of or are a member of an environmental organisation, contact them and ask them to join us. The first such group to join is Surf To Save in Cornwall.

"A Pocket Full Of Acorns is limited only by your imagination" and other than a few stamps and the odd photocopy will not cost you a penny. However if you do not wish to take part in this project, then simply recycle this leaflet by giving it to someone else, or pin it up on a school notice board, or place it in a shop window. Please don't throw our planet away, it could literally cost us the Earth!

Initial endorsements by the Devon Tree Bank, The World Conservation Union, and the Forestry Commission.
Andrew Fletcher, 26 Berry Drive, Paignton, Devon, TQ3 3QW. From the Originator of OASIS Irrigation.