Trees are one of the fundamental aspects of nature that makes our existence on Earth possible and yet we cut down 15 billion of them across the world every year. This lack of care or understanding needs to be addressed and we must learn to love and respect our fellow species.
At Green-Books.org, we love trees and it saddens us to see the lack of care in the world today for our beautiful, leafy neighbours. Trees tell us stories of the past and are our key to survival in the future. Not only do they provide environmental benefits, they have also been shown to have a positive effect on well-being and health. Here we provide you with ten excellent reasons to reconnect with nature and fall in love with trees.
Trees work hard to right our wrongs
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas found in our atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels over the last decades has led to a huge increase in CO2 in our atmosphere, and this is a key cause of global climate change. Trees can help us undo and reduce some of our carbon emissions by absorbing and using CO2 in the process of photosynthesis. As a byproduct, trees release the oxygen which we breathe in.
Trees help us conserve energy
Surrounding buildings with trees and vegetation can enhance privacy and visual pleasure. But the most beneficial result is that trees can shade our homes and workplaces and help keep us cool in summer months. As a result, trees can support energy conservation. Recent estimates show that in a well-shaded community, energy needs for air conditioning could be cut by 50%.
Trees could help reduce flooding
During periods of heavy rainfall, trees could help reduce runoff into rivers by intercepting precipitation through the canopy. The intercepted rainfall later evaporates or trickles down the trunk to reach the soil. Tree root structures, litter and humus-rich soils also enhance water infiltration and intercept overland flow. As a result, trees can reduce and slow down the amount of water entering the water-courses and spilling over the banks. This means less damage to communities and land use downstream and less need for invasive and expensive flood management techniques that could be harmful for local biodiversity. However, in order to use trees optimally for flood control, we need an improved understanding of the interactions between trees and water flows, particularly at larger spatial and temporal scales.
Trees can help keep the air clean
Trees have an amazing ability to absorb odors and pollutant gases from the air. These include nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone, all of which are harmful to our health and the planet. Besides, trees can filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark. A study conducted in cities in the UK recently found that in areas with high background pollution, an extra 300 trees per km2 can lead to 50 fewer asthma attacks per 100,000 residents as a result of the cleaning power of trees. However, it is important to choose species with high air pollution tolerance and also to place trees carefully in urban locations to ensure they help clear polluted air rather than trapping it at ground level.
Trees give us food
Many species of trees provide us with nutritious food ranging from nuts, to fruits, spices and edible leaves. Trees can generate high yields and are an exceedingly reliant food source in comparison to other plant types. For example, a single apple tree can produce 400-500 kg of fruit per year for 30-40 years. Furthermore, fruits and nuts provide many of the vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy and active lifestyle.
Trees help build fertile soil
Falling leaves, branches, fruits and flowers, as well as feces of birds and animals that frequent the trees add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Tree root systems and decomposing litter help to create aerated permeable soil structures. Trees intercept rainfall and slowly release that water into the soil. Furthermore, with reduction of water runoff, soil erosion is reduced. Tree canopies and litter can reduce soil temperature and moisture loss and promote the activity of soil microorganisms. The enriched, aerated and moist soils in turn attract and support the growth of other plant species and this has knock-on effects for animals such as insects that depend on them for pollination.
Trees can help build communities and reduce crime rates
Trees and gardens in residential areas provide an aesthetically pleasing place to sit or walk in and can serve to bring together the communities and neighbours using the area. Furthermore, if well maintained, they can build community spirit and create a sense of pride. Better-functioning communities often go hand in hand with reduced crime rates. Studies in Baltimore have shown that a 10% increase in trees in an area equals a 12% decrease in crime. The rationale mentioned is that trees draw people to an area which leads to more potential witnesses, and less crimes being committed as a result.
Trees make us happier
The link between nature and psychological/emotional wellbeing has been studied extensively in recent years and results suggest that trees really do make people feel better. So much so that a 1984 study in Pennsylvania looked at patients recovering from gallbladder surgery and compared the recovery times of those with a view of a forest and those with a view of the wall. It was found that the patients with a view of the trees were discharged on average a day earlier than those with the urban view. A similar study in Korea reported that workers with a view of nature experienced lower levels of stress and greater well-being.
Trees make great teachers
There is so much we can learn from trees such as coexistence in ecological communities, energy production, water absorption, carbon capture, soil building, seed dissemination, and resistance to disturbances.Trees are also a key habitat for many species of plants, animals, birds and insects, and can teach us about ecosystems and food chains. We can support our technological developments by studying leaves and learning how best to capture sunlight or what materials are good for absorbing water. Every tree has a humble beginning, starting as a tiny seed, and growing into something big, strong and life giving, a cycle we may all wish to emulate.
Trees give us timber
The list of products made from timber is astonishing, judge for yourself. Wood is used in the construction of buildings, bridges, poles for power lines, masts for boats, railway sleepers, fencing, shuttering for concrete, scaffolding and pallets. In housebuilding it is used in joinery, for making joists, roof trusses, roofing shingles, thatching, staircases, doors, window frames, floor boards, parquet flooring, panelling and cladding. Wood is used to construct carts, farm implements, boats, dugout canoes and in shipbuilding.
It is used for making furniture, tool handles, boxes, ladders, musical instruments, bows, weapons, matches, clothes pegs, brooms, shoes, baskets, turnery, carving, toys, pencils, rollers, cogs, wooden screws, barrels, coffins, skittles, veneers, artificial limbs, oars, skis, wooden cutlery, sports equipment and wooden balls. Wood is pulped for paper and used in the manufacture of cardboard and made into engineered wood products for use in construction such as fibreboard, hardboard, chipboard and plywood. Can you list some more?
At Green-Books.org it is our mission to educate Indonesian children on the natural systems that make life on earth possible and inspire them to live sustainably. Learning to connect with nature and understanding why it is so important for our survival and well-being is a key message we hope to spread to the next generation through our program. Help us achieve our goal by sharing online and visiting and making a donation here.
Author: Holly McElroy