Planting trees for climate

Planting native has a wide variety of benefits. Whether it’s planting a white oak, grey dogwood shrub, or one of our many varieties of apple trees, native perennials provide a multitude of services. They add to wildlife habitat for birds, pollinators, and mammals as well as producing treats for us to consume (like fruits and nuts). They also have improved plant survival, increase diversity, and support our cherished pollinators. Local tree planting projects also help reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The use of reforestation to combat climate change is a traditional approach with a real impact. To build big strong trunks and pop out thousands of leaves, trees have to take in about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in their lifetime. Multiply that across large planting projects and you have quite a dent. Those trees can stand for decades to centuries and either decompose into the soil and become new plants or be turned into long-lasting wood products which opens more space for new trees to store even more carbon.

Internationally, tree planting efforts on land suited for reforestation is predicted to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by 25 percent. That could make it an impactful component of the climate change solution. The United States alone has committed to planting 1 billion trees in the next 10 years.

While most of this won’t be happening in the U.P., it is incredibly impactful to plant in our own neighborhoods and communities. In addition to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, forests create a positive feedback loop that also helps to combat warming. Sheltering canopies help retain rainwater and reflect more light than a brown, bare ground. Forests are essential in other ways, like reducing erosion and helping to purify water.

With selecting trees it also becomes important to consider the shifting climate. Like many places, the Great Lakes ecoregion is going to experience a shift in climate that affects what grows here and how well it does. Some habitat zones will be pushed out while others come in. It is impossible to predict exactly how it will look but we can do our best to estimate. Planting now for a future climate can give the environment the best chance at recovery. Some trees to consider when planting for long term success are silver maple, white oak, black walnut and shagbark hickory. These species have historically done better further south and exist at the edge of their limits here in the Upper Peninsula.

We want to help you choose the best trees for your projects and goals. If you have questions or want advice you can contact your forester Sara Kelso at or (906) 251-3071 or our office at (906) 387-2222.

Planting native trees and plants can help strengthen an ecosystem.