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The environmental performance of protecting seedlings with plastic tree shelters for afforestation in temperate oceanic regions: A UK case study

Chau, C; Paulillo, A; Lu, N; Miodownik, M; Lettieri, P; (2021) The environmental performance of protecting seedlings with plastic tree shelters for afforestation in temperate oceanic regions: A UK case study. Science of the Total Environment , 791 , Article 148239. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148239. Green open access

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Abstract

Restoration of forested land represents an effective strategy to achieve net-zero target emissions by enhancing the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The most common afforestation strategy envisages planting seedlings, which are germinated and grown to the desired age at tree nurseries, with plastic shelters to increase growth and survival of trees. This article presents a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study that compares the environmental performance of current and prospective scenarios for shelter-aided seedling planting compared with a base case where shelters are not employed. The study focuses on the UK, but results and conclusions are valid for other temperate oceanic regions. The scenarios investigated are a combination of different shelters materials and end-of-life (EoL) strategies. Our analysis demonstrates that (i) planting seedling without shelters is the most preferable option across most environmental impact categories (including Climate Change), and in terms of weighted results, (ii) polypropylene shelters are preferable to bio-based alternatives, including polylactic acid-starch blends and bio-polypropylene, (iii) recycling is the most environmentally advantageous EoL treatment. Our study also showed that that the carbon emissions of the scenarios investigated are negligible when compared to the amount of carbon sequestered by a tree in 25 years.

Type: Article
Title: The environmental performance of protecting seedlings with plastic tree shelters for afforestation in temperate oceanic regions: A UK case study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148239
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148239
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Life Cycle Assessment, Plastic Tree Shelters, Forestry Management, Planting Seedlings, Environmental Impact, Climate Change
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Chemical Engineering
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Mechanical Engineering
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10130156
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