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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
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. Today, we're raising funds to jumpstart forest fire recovery in British Columbia. Learn more

With your help, we will:

  • Restore landscapes damaged by a historic season of wildfires
  • Create habitat for iconic biodiversity like the moose and grizzly bear
  • Support old-growth management areas to maintain complex ecosystems
  • This reforestation initiative is helping to restore the landscape in British Columbia after the Hanceville fire burned over 590,000 acres in 2017 and natural regeneration has not occurred. The fire has impacted the forest, soils, riparian ecosystems, wildlife, and water quality. Local indigenous communities have seen their ability to hunt and gather food drastically altered. But your support will go a long way! The goal of planting trees here is to not only re-establish a healthy forest, but also to plant species that will be resilient in the face of climate change. Thank you so much for your support of healthy forests! 🌲
  • Planting trees will catalyze the process of returning the area to a forested state. Newly planted trees will begin the process of sequestering atmospheric carbon, and over time improve the hydrological benefits of the forest. The ecosystems that have been greatly simplified by extreme fire conditions will once again become complex ecosystems, This project will also create habitat for many local wildlife species including mule deer, moose, black and grizzly bear, wolves, sandhill cranes, various raptors, songbirds, and small mammals.
  • 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.
  • B.C.'s rich forest diversity includes more than 40 different species of native trees, with some of Canada’s most interesting and valuable tree species. In this project, we made efforts to maximize species diversity, including the following species: Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, hybrid spruce, ponderosa pine, trembling aspen.

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