The Value of Trees
Trees are living, breathing historical records. They first took root a whopping 385 million years ago. For context, trees were around during the Ice Age and when the Pyramids of Giza were brand-new. They’re some of the oldest living organisms in the world and have so much impact on the environment and human civilization.
However, it’s too easy for the worth of trees to slip to the back of our minds. In the face of climate change and the need for collective action to save the Earth, it’s important that we revisit the true values of trees time and again to remember just how interlinked our environment is.
Trees play a unique role in helping maintain much-needed homeostasis in our environment. It’s important to understand this multi-faceted role in the broader context of climate action — because that will make the significance of tree planting and reforestation even more visible.
Trees effectively slow down rain and allow it to soak into the soil. This is especially so in urban areas: by decreasing stormwater runoff, trees act as natural sponges and collect and filter rainfall, releasing it slowly (and cleanly!) into streams and rivers. Moreover, trees prevent soil erosion which is also known to affect water quality as silt particles are blown away by wind action into nearby water reserves.
Trees play an important role when it comes to acting as a carbon sink. A carbon sink refers to anything that stores carbon-containing chemical compounds — and this lowers the concentration of carbon dioxide present in the environment. With the rapid and fast-paced industrial activities releasing unhealthy amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the need for a carbon sink has never been greater.
Without trees, it would be challenging, if not impossible, to regulate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And that would greatly harm the fragile balance that is essential for the wellbeing of our planet.
Statistics show that a single mature tree can absorb around 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. Globally, forests absorb at least 40% of carbon dioxide emissions caused due to human activities. Without these trees, these emissions would reach our outer atmosphere, damaging the ozone layer exposing our planet to even more harmful radiation. Our ozone layer has already been significantly damaged, and the most significant way to control this growing problem is through tree planting and reforestation.
We often refer to trees as the “lungs” of the earth, but it’s worth noting that trees also play the function of a liver.
Apart from minimizing carbon dioxide levels, trees also help absorb numerous other toxins and pollutants emitted due to industrial activities. These pollutants include nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter like acids, metals, and dust from factories and vehicles. This absorption ensures that we get clean, safe air to breathe in and protects us from several respiratory diseases. The more trees you have in an urban space, the cleaner the air is likely to be. And did you know that some trees are better air filters than others?
Trees improve soil health because their roots hold the soil together. This flood control feature plays a major role in preventing soil erosion which keeps the land fertile, supporting vegetation and other farming practices.
Trees also protect and aid in the generation of topsoil, which forms so slowly it can be called a limited resource. The shade created by tree canopies helps to regulate soil temperature. Finally, dense forest cover becomes a haven for birds and animals, which leads to more organic matter than enriches the soil.
Have you ever walked past a patch of trees and felt the temperature drop a degree or two? That’s the trees’ magic! Trees not only act as a barrier against floods by absorbing water, but they also release it into the environment in the form of water vapor. This happens due to the process of evapotranspiration through leaves, which produces a cooling effect.
Moreover, trees act as a natural shade for the ground and buildings, making the environment pleasant, especially during the summers. The cooling effect of a single, mature tree is compatible with ten air conditioning units!
Forests are a source of livelihood for many families, who depend on them for finding food, shelter, and timber. Moreover, trees provide the timber used in construction and industries to produce a variety of finished goods. This, in turn, helps to create jobs and research opportunities at every step of the supply chain, such that entire lives depend on trees’ existence.
The more biodiverse an area, the healthier the area’s ecology is regarded to be. Planting outside woodlands and allowing portions of land to recover naturally is vital to restoring natural habitats and animal corridors.
When we continue to have these thriving, we reduce the chances of wild animals wandering into cities and endangering both themselves and humans. It’s not just trees — a variety in plant species will create a diverse ecosystem with balanced food chains.
Tree planting is also very valuable when it comes to serving the medical industry. Experts have claimed that every four square miles of rainforest contains around 1,500 different types of plants and 750 different trees.
This biodiversity causes many organisms to develop chemicals, which can then be collected and researched by pharmaceutical companies for medical purposes. Around 25 percent of western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest-based ingredients, and at least 121 prescription drugs are sourced from plant derivatives.
Being a hotspot of biodiversity, trees in urban areas and forests outside cities have immense recreational value. They’re perfect spots for hiking, birdwatching, forest bathing, and learning about nature. This is beneficial in quite the cyclic manner: the more time we spend in the company of trees, the more we understand them, and the more we’re determined to preserve them!
The points do not just signify the value of trees but also incentivize tree planting and reforestation. Trees are the bottom line for so much of our lives (no matter how far away from them we might be). They hold immense cultural and spiritual value.
Keeping all this in mind, it is important that we start planting more trees. We must undertake personal initiatives and encourage our governments and organizations to create policies that incentivize tree planting.
EcoMatcher can help organizations and individuals achieve this, which transparent tree planting processes that green the earth, protect livelihoods, and decisively act towards saving the planet. Along with planting more trees, it is also crucial that we preserve and nurture our existing forests — after all, you can’t clap with one hand!
Trees are not only necessary for existence, but they also serve as a link between the past, present, and future as the longest-living plant species on the planet. Woodlands, rainforests, and trees in urban contexts, such as parks, must be protected and managed responsibly worldwide!