There are many benefits that trees provide the environment. First of all, trees combat climate change. Excess carbon dioxide (CO2) is building up in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.
There are also several other benefits of having trees, as far as the environment’s concerned, including the following:
- Trees Clean the Air: Trees absorb all kinds of odors and pollutant gases, and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
- Trees Provide Oxygen: We all know that without oxygen, none of us would be here. In one year, an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
- Trees Cool Cities: As average temperatures around the globe continue to rise, trees provide shade, which helps counter the rising heat’s effects. Trees can cool as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Trees Save Water: Shade from trees helps here as well, as the shade slows water evaporation from thirsty lawns. Most newly-planted trees need only 15 gallons of water per week. As they transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.
- Trees Conserve Energy: If your home is engulfed in shade from an array of trees, you’re much more likely to pop open a window or two on a warm day than turn on air conditioners. This helps you save money if you limit your usage. Also, by reducing energy demand, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.
Trees are still the best “technology” to capture CO2, which is essential in the ongoing global environmental crisis. You can contribute to the solution, but it’s important to choose the right trees to plant. A tree absorbs carbon during photosynthesis and stores it in the wood for the life of the tree. The massive trunk of an ancient oak or redwood represents many tons of sequestered carbon.
Here are some factors to consider when picking your trees.
- Fast-growing trees store the most carbon during their first decade, often a tree’s most productive period.
- Long-lived trees can keep carbon stored for generations without releasing it in decomposition.
- Large leaves and wide crowns enable maximum photosynthesis.
- Native species will thrive in your soil and best support local wildlife.
- Low-maintenance, disease-resistant species will do better without greenhouse-gas-producing fertilizers and equipment.
Here are some types of trees to consider, although your choice may vary by region.
- Yellow Poplar (or Tulip Tree), the top carbon-storer in one New York City study, works hard under rough conditions.
- Silver Maple can trap nearly 25,000 pounds of CO2 in a 55 year period, according to the Center for Urban Forests.
- Oak (White Oak, Willow Oak, Laurel Oak and Scarlet Oak) has adapted to thrive in many climates, providing food and shelter to wildlife.
- Horse Chestnut grows well in cities; its domed top provides exceptional shade, which offers passive cooling benefits.
- Red Mulberry provides the added benefit of delicious seasonal fruit.
- London Plane is an excellent choice for urban planning, very tolerant of pollution and root-cramping, resistant to cold and disease.
- American Sweetgum has brilliant fall colors, is large and long-lived. In the north, consider American Linden instead.
- Dogwood offers lovely seasonal flowers; this and other particularly dense trees like Black Walnut can store more carbon in a smaller tree.
- Blue Spruce, widely introduced as an ornamental, thrives in most northern regions; in the Pacific Northwest, Douglas Fir also excels.
- Pines (White, Red, Ponderosa and Hispaniola) are the most carbon-effective conifer.
If you’re wondering where trees are most needed, the answer is everywhere, but here’s a detailed breakdown as to why trees benefit each specific environment.
Cities and Suburbs
In urban “heat islands”, vast stretches of asphalt magnify and reflect the sun, sending CO2 directly skyward and creating “dead zones” below. A tree forms an oasis of shade, provides wildlife habitat, and improves air quality. Adding street trees can actually lower summer temperatures through evaporative cooling.
While sustainable logging may be necessary to support human systems, large-scale clear cuts represent an environmental disaster. The forest floor sequesters enormous amounts of carbon, accumulated over centuries by natural decay. Soil disruption and erosion caused by poor logging practices cause tremendous carbon release. Prompt replanting can help.
Carbon-offset studies have shown that the perpetual growing season and fertile soil of equatorial regions enables trees to multiply their carbon storage capacity. Forests in some of these regions have been devastated by industrial development and are in critical need of healing.
Your Backyard or Neighborhood
Build a grassroots movement by raising awareness of the urgency of carbon storage. Small local efforts create positive ripples and, yes, actual carbon benefits. You can spread the word by involving some neighborhood kids, a group of coworkers, or friends. They will walk away with practical know-how and pass it on.
The benefits of planting trees also help in the fight against Global Warming, according to ClimateRally.org. Here are some ways trees combat it.
- Planting trees for the environment is good as they are renewable, biodegradable and recyclable.
- If we plant 20 million trees, the earth will get 260 million more tons of oxygen.
- One acre of trees can remove up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
- During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.
- Trees keep air and water pollution in check.
- Trees are the natural habitat of the animals and birds, as well as many endangered species.
- Planting trees mean more wood and paper products which can be easily recycled.
- A newly planted whole forest can change the tonnes of atmospheric carbon into the wood and other fibrous tissue, thus reducing global warming.
The bottom line? Trees are essential for the survival of our planet, and it’s especially important to keep them thriving for years to come.