Trees are important in improving the human condition. Click To Tweet During its life and after harvest, a tree has many key functions in any ecosystem.  For the air, soil, and other organisms. they are vitally important.  For humans, trees are important economically but more importantly they are necessary for keeping us alive and healthy.

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

1.  Trees Produce O2

One mature leafy tree can produce enough oxygen in a season to satisfy the oxygen needs for 10 people.

At09kg (Own work), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wiki Commons

A one acre forest produces about 4 tons of oxygen which is enough to meet the yearly needs of 18 people.

2.  Trees Are Carbon Sinks

Trees combat climate change, slowing global warming, by locking away CO2 during the process of photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis is the chemical process where plants take the energy from sunlight and store it in a sugar molecule which is made from carbon dioxide and water.  An acre of pine trees (~120 trees) has the potential to store roughly 5 tons of CO2 per year.  Young trees tend to store more COthen they release during respiration, thus, they do reduce carbon dioxide available as a greenhouse gas.

3.  Trees Moderate Temperature and Rainfall

Through the process of transpiration, trees can make it rain.  In fact, they not only affect local rainfall patterns but can also affect them globally.  Through the process of transpiration and the shading of a forest canopy, trees can form their own microclimate affecting the temperature and local humidity and rainfall.

4.  Trees Clean the Air

Trees clean the air we breathe.  When they take in the gases for photosynthesis, other pollutant gases such as CO, SO2, NOare also absorbed by plants meaning humans and other organisms breathe easier.  Trees also intercept airborne particles.

5.  Trees Clean the Soil

Trees clean the soil through the process of phytoremediation. This process involves the action of plant roots absorbing dangerous chemicals and other pollutants that have entered the soil.  Sewage and farm chemicals are reduced or removed in this way.  The toxic effect of animal waste and roadside spills are greatly reduced and the water that runs off into streams is purified.  Many of these contaminants are degraded or transformed within the plant and      by-products that are released through the leaves during transpiration are either harmless or less toxic.

6.  Trees Slow Soil Erosion

Popular soil erosion control measures involve tree and grass planting projects.  Along rivers and streams, the natural growth of trees and grass slows the runoff of water and buffers the soil underneath so less is carried into the water.  This is because tree (and grass) roots bind soil, holding it together so less is lost with the running water.  As well, tree leaves break the force of wind and rain on the soil slowing erosion.

What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree? The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to give shade for the tiny titmouse. — Edward Abbey

7.  Trees Shade and Cool

Shade trees cut the need for air conditioning in the summer and in the winter evergreens especially, break up the force of the wind by lowering heating costs.  Trees cool a city by up to 10oC – 12othrough the shading of leaves and the releasing of water vapor through transpiration.  Wildlife will seek out the forested areas on hot days to get a break from the heat of the sun.

8.  Trees Slow Storm Water Runoff

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., Public domain, via Wiki Commons

Trees along water courses slow flash flooding.  The slowing water is better able to soak into the ground and reach the waiting aquifers. One fully grown Colorado Blue Spruce can intercept more than 1000 gallons of water annually.

9.  Trees Link Natural Areas Together

Forest corridors allow safer movement of animals from one area to another. Some animals such as deer and wild turkeys feed in open pasture or cropland and retreat to forests for shelter from predators.  Open fields linked by forested corridors provide travelways for wildlife.

10.  Trees Support Biodiversity

Trees, especially mature forests, provide habitat and food for animals and birds.  The diversity of plants and animals is preserved and increased in forests which results in more stable ecosystems.

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