Reforestation Pilot Project with Seed Pucks in British Columbia
Cassie Meigs & Diana Chaplin | January 20, 2021 | 4 min read
Direct Seeding With Drones for Forest Fire Restoration
Direct seeding is a method of reforestation involving the manual or mechanical deposition of tree seeds rather than seedlings that have already sprouted and grown roots and leaves or needles. This method can potentially increase the speed and scale of forest restoration while reducing costs. However, the practice inherently depends on depositing high quantities of seed using imprecise equipment.
Drone technology has been taking on an ever-larger role in reforestation, with specialized planting drones capable of delivering seeds to specific locations while using 10 to 20 times less seed than traditional direct seeding methods. Drone deployment is especially relevant in post-wildfire situations where putting human tree planters is prohibitive due to dangerous conditions. While One Tree Planted’s reforestation projects have always been conducted by planters, we support the development of innovative approaches to reforestation that suit different environmental needs and address global reforestation challenges.
That is why we’ve teamed up with Zanzibar Holdings Ltd., a Canadian-based silviculture company, and DroneSeed, a Seattle-based drone seeding company for a pilot project.
The intention of the collaboration is to pilot the application of DroneSeed’s proprietary seed vessel (commonly referred to as “pucks” due to their shape) technology as a post-wildfire solution capable of increasing the speed, scale, and accuracy of reforestation efforts in British Columbia.
If this trial is successful, it will provide support for future large-scale drone seeding operations in the region using DroneSeed’s custom built heavy-lift drones, which they fly in swarms of up to 5.
DroneSeed pucks are small biodegradable squares containing seed.
The pucks are light, small, and uniquely designed so they can be precisely and efficiently deployed from their drones. However, they are also designed to aid in the germination of the seeds. The pucks combine basic principles of seed technologies from nurseries and agricultural industries with DroneSeed’s innovations. Therefore, the seeds within begin with an advantage by being in an ideal growth medium composed of a proprietary combination of survival enhancing features.
Controlled pilot was established to test success of seed pucks
The DroneSeed pucks are being deployed by hand in both fall and spring to test how seasonality effects the germination and establishment of three commercially and ecologically valuable tree species (Yellow or Ponderosa Pine, Douglas-fir, and Lodgepole Pine). In the winter of 2020, Zanzibar Holdings Ltd. supported DroneSeed in the implementation of a controlled experiment where seed pucks were systematically distributed by hand among several sites within wildfire affected areas in the central interior of British Columbia, Canada.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel, DroneSeed was not able to travel to British Columbia for this pilot projects. This became an opportunity to involve and train local field staff in the placement of the pucks. The methodology of the placement of the pucks was a collaboration between local ecologists, foresters, and DroneSeed. It was ensured that the location and placement of the pucks was based on the best microsites to support the successful germination of the seeds.
Now We Wait
The seed pucks are now safely on the ground, all tucked into their special growing medium and acclimating to the current outdoor conditions of winter in British Columbia. Now, as is so often the case with science and nature, we must wait and observe.
At each of these sites, rates of germination + growth, along with soil and weather conditions will be monitored for the next year. We’ll see what the success rate is and continue to monitor the restoration area over time. Stay tuned!