2 Billion Trees: Supply chain from seed to tree

The 2 Billion Trees program (2BT) is part of the Government of Canada’s broader approach to nature-based climate solutions. It will contribute to Canada’s efforts mitigating climate change while achieving essential biodiversity, conservation, and human well-being benefits.

The program is on track to plant two billion trees over ten years, resulting in a permanent increase in forest cover in Canada. By the end of 2021, 30 million trees will have been planted – and that number will increase every year. 

Why plant 2 billion trees?

  • To capture carbon in growing trees to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help fight against climate change.
  • To enhance biodiversity and forest resilience to climate change by planting the right tree species in the right places and restoring wildlife habitat.
  • To support human well-being by creating more green spaces for recreational activities and sanctuaries for connecting with nature; better regulation of temperatures in cities; improved mental well-being, and reduced risk of wildland fire and floods to our communities.

Tree planting moves at the speed of nature

Two billion trees start with two billion seeds. 

The process to get from seeds to trees is complex and takes several years to ramp up, which is why this program has been designed to plant more trees in every planting year than the year before. By ramping up planting activities every year, we’ll hit our target of two billion trees planted over ten years.

Tree planting requires careful planning to ensure the right tree is planted in the right place for the right reasons. So, different species and sizes of trees are necessary for various planting projects.

Seed collection, nursery operations, site preparation, and tree planting are seasonal activities, some of which can occur only 4 to 5 months per year.

Tree planting timeline – a snapshot

  • Year 0 – Landowner decides to plant trees: Provinces, territories, municipalities, for-profit, not-for-profit, or Indigenous organizations support planting trees and define objectives and timing.
  • Year 1 – Seed collection: Seeds of the desired species need to be collected or acquired, if not already available.
  • Years 1-3 – Seedling growth in nurseries: Seedlings are grown in the greenhouse until the tree is ready to plant (typically 1-3 years for reforestation trees but up to 10 years for urban trees).
  • Year 2-3 up to year 15 (urban trees) – Site preparation: 6-12 months before planting a tree, site preparation creates the right planting conditions to increase seedling survival.
  • Year 2-3 up to year 15 (urban trees) – Tree planting: The tree is planted.
  • Each year – Post planting monitoring and management: Monitoring starts for health and survival rate. Measures can be taken to ensure better survival rates, such as managing competing vegetation when tree survival is threatened in early years.
  • Years 7+ – Seedling free to grow: Seedling has matured and will continue growing independently.

Starting small – and growing fast

The 2 Billion Trees program funding is aligned with the tree planting supply chain business model, using a 2 to 3-year production schedule, which is the time it takes to grow seedlings for most planting activities in Canada.

  •  The launch of the 2 Billion Trees program in early 2021 signalled to nurseries across Canada that their capacity would need to increase by 40% to meet this program’s targets.
  •  The program will build a strong foundation by focusing on long-term agreements with tree-planting organizations that will, in turn, stable fuel demand on nurseries. 
  •  As contribution agreements are signed, and purchase orders are made, nurseries will invest in infrastructure and seedling production.
  •  While that process is playing out, the Government is working with partners to plant seedlings that are currently overstocked at nurseries. This early work will see 30 million trees planted under the 2 Billion Trees program by the end of 2021.
  •  After ten years, two billion trees will have been planted across the country! The projects proposed by program partners will determine the exact number of seeds and trees planted per year. The number of trees planted each year will gradually increase from one year to the next as the supply chain and available trees grow.

The exact number of trees planted is reported by partners after all of their planting activities are completed. The 2021 tree planting season results will be available in spring 2022 once partners have submitted their final reports to the program.

Since Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) launched this program, many partners have shown keen interest in planting trees in rural and urban settings. NRCan’s latest call for proposals was launched on December 16, 2021, and we will be announcing tree-planting projects as agreements are signed with prospective partners.

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