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! 

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

As the need for reforestation is global and ever-changing, we feature where trees are most needed now. For Treecember, we're planting trees that support a global forest fire recovery fund. Learn more

With your help, we will:

  • Reforest lands damaged by record-setting fires
  • Support healthy habitat for iconic biodiversity
  • Plant tree species that will help reduce future fire impact
  • This holiday season, we’re planting trees in areas around the world that have been severely affected by forest fires and aren't able to recover a healthy ecosystem on their own. The most common naturally-caused wildfires occur during droughts or dry weather, and under these circumstances, trees and other vegetation are converted to flammable fuel. Human-caused forest fires can be a result of various activities like unregulated slash and burn agriculture, equipment failure or engine sparks, and discarded cigarettes.

    After wildfires, reforestation is essential in areas where the fire intensity burned off available seed supply within the soil, and/or where there are not enough healthy trees still growing and producing new seeds nearby. Reforestation starts once professional assessments have been made to determine where human intervention would be the most ecologically beneficial. Help restore these vital ecosystems by planting a tree. 🌿
  • Every year, forest fires are increasing in size and severity, damaging vital ecosystems and creating a need for millions of trees. Some major consequences of forest fires include significant loss of wildlife, loss of vegetation, soil erosion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

    With so much fire damage, reforestation is essential to catalyze the environmental recovery process. The trees are carefully planted to prevent invasive species from colonizing burn scars and restore quality habitat for native biodiversity. One Tree Planted is connecting with on-the-ground partners to establish viable reforestation projects when the recently affected regions are ready for planting. This fund will contribute to planting projects in British Columbia, Idaho, Ghana, Portugal, and beyond. Let's get to work! 🌲
  • A personalized tree certificate (see gallery) to say thanks for your donation. We'll also send you updates about this project, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • To maximize the impact of your donation, our partners on the ground will determine the most appropriate species of tree and shrubs. We only plant native tree species that will restore the local ecosystem, re-establish wildlife habitat, and reduce the likelihood of future fires.

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