Have you ever stopped to wonder what the importance of trees is? We are surrounded by them in our forests, jungles, parks, and gardens.
For generations, human beings have marvelled at trees and their stoic stability. So much so that many early religious beliefs saw different trees as sacred and divine.
The Celts understood the importance of trees as they worshipped the mighty Oak for its protection and ability to live forever. In Hinduism trees are viewed as the givers of knowledge and wisdom and Buddhists have divine respect for their tree of awakening, the Bodhi Fig tree.
There’s no escaping the majestic importance of trees throughout history.
But how about now? Beyond spiritual beliefs, what is it that trees are so important for? And why are there so many people around the world trying to repopulate different tree species?
It’s no secret that the number of trees thriving on our planet has reduced dramatically. From tree clearing in the Amazon to the way we chop down these givers of life to make way for more concrete housing.
Understanding the importance of trees is how we help our forests and jungles thrive. We need them more than you may have realized.
Here are nine reasons why our trees are so important and why we should protect them.
1. Essential Wildlife Habitat
Our forests and jungles are homes to millions of animal species that have made a home within and around our trees. One tree can be home to hundreds of living organisms, including microorganisms that you can’t see with the naked eye but are just as important to the healthy maintenance of our ecosystems.
Not only do they offer a safe space for these creatures to hide, sleep, and rest, trees offer food, nutrition, and even hydration to millions of animals.
Although sometimes it is important to remove certain trees. Ones that are damaged, dying, or full of disease that could kill surrounding tree species, we must be very selective about which trees we remove. Even dying trees are home to someone.
Our high levels of deforestation have had a major impact on our trees but the human species has also dramatically reduced the number of natural wildlife habits our mammals, insects, and other living organisms have to seek shelter in.
This is why it is so important to support, donate to, and even volunteer for the hundreds of replanting environmental charities.
2. Help The World Breathe
Even back in our early year’s education, we learn the importance of trees and how they produce oxygen. Without them, the earth would be void of pretty much any life at all. Just like we breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, our trees do the same only the other way around.
I am sure you have heard of photosynthesis but I will catch you up in case you have forgotten. Photosynthesis is the process that plants, including trees, go through to produce life-sustaining energy.
The world’s trees use water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide to create their energy source. As with all energy-producing processes, it creates a waste by-product. In this case, it is oxygen, the very air we breathe.
To put it into perspective one mature tree can produce enough oxygen in a single season to sustain two people for an entire year. Pretty impressive right?
Trees also purify our air by intercepting airborne particles that can affect the quality of our breathable air and they can even absorb pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.
The importance of trees really is a life-giving one.
3. Reduce Noise Pollution
Let’s look at a really selfish way that our trees are important to our way of life. The urban lifestyle has become more and more prevalent with the expansion of many of our towns and cities.
With urbanization comes noise pollution. Factories, cars, public transport, businesses, and even concert halls are all to blame but we rely on many of these, and getting rid of them isn’t an option.
Trees can act as a noise buffer, muffling and blocking the level of noise pollution traveling in the air. In fact, trees can reduce noise pollution almost as much as a concrete wall but they look far prettier as they do it.
The importance of trees in urban areas is even appreciated by designers and architects, as they strategically place trees within new builds to reduce noise levels and make life for those living in those areas far more enjoyable.
So, if your noisy neighbor hasn’t got the hint yet, pop up a couple of trees and you’ll have your very own breathing noise buffer to bring peace and tranquillity back into your garden.
4. Clean The Soil
Some trees can filter our soils and clean them. This process is called phytoremediation and it translates from Latin to mean “restoring balance” and that’s just what these fantastic trees do.
Poisoning of our soils is a big problem, whether it be run off from commercial agricultural farms, by-products from factory processes, and pollution from other sources such as landfills and dumps. These toxins can seep into our soil and cause some dangerous issues for the local ecosystem.
The importance of trees that can fight this pollution has only been a recent discovery but without them, many areas of our towns and cities would be wastelands.
Thankfully, people now recognize the importance of trees within the healthy balance of our ecosystems and have begun to quickly use this to their advantage by planting phytoremediation trees, like poplar, white willow, and cottonwood trees to reduce heavy metals and pollutants in aquatic systems and surrounding soils.
5. Reduce Soil Erosion
Although a naturally occurring process that has happened for millennia, soil erosion has become a global issue. The natural displacement of our topsoil levels, caused by farming, water, or air can lead to a massive number of issues such as vegetation being unable to sustain itself in areas where significant soil erosion has occurred.
Surface water run-off from heavy rainfall or flooding is one dangerous cause of soil erosion that trees are particularly well-equipped to stop. They stop water from washing the soil away and this is very obvious in steep forest-bound terrains.
Tree roots can also help to keep soil bound to the land so that soil erosion is reduced. One place where soil erosion is really obvious is ravines and cliff edges. These types of landscapes are less susceptible to erosion if the soil and surrounding rock is bound by trees and their roots.
Some trees that are very good at reducing this kind of erosion are Douglas fir, western red cedar, pacific crab apple, and shore pine.
6. Combat Climate Change
One of the biggest issues that come with climate change is global warming, caused predominantly by high levels of carbon dioxide that slowly warm our earth. This is where the importance of trees and their ability to absorb CO2 comes into play.
This excess carbon dioxide gets trapped in our atmosphere and creates heat traps that stop the heat of the sun from leaving our atmosphere. It’s like sticking your radiators on in the summer and keeping your windows closed. Eventually, your home will become too warm to stay in, just like our earth.
Trees can sometimes be called ‘carbon sinks’ this is the process where forests trap carbon dioxide and use it as energy so that it isn’t released into our atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.
This is why the demolition of many of our great rainforests, jungles, and temperate forests has had a devastating effect. With each acre that is lost a devastating amount of carbon dioxide is released and contributes towards climate change.
By planting more trees and reviving our forests we can once again use trees to save our planet from devastating global warming.
7. Provide Shade
There’s nothing more wonderful than a cooling break under the shade of a big tree in the summer. This might seem like such an unimportant benefit of trees, one that possibly couldn’t affect the whole planet but it does.
Trees cool down and shade the areas that surround them and without this cooling effect, many of the surfaces of our earth would be far too hot to survive in.
There have even been studies conducted that have proved that areas in cities that have no trees can be up to 12 degrees hotter than those areas that have an abundance of tree coverage.
Trees can reduce the need for air conditioning during the summer months and they can also protect many plants that don’t survive in direct sunlight and heat very well. In fact, without the shade and coolness, our trees provide, many of our plant species would wither away and die.
This cooling effect also reduces the level of evaporation from the soil, making the ground and surrounding soil a much more habitable place for vegetation.
8. Protection From The Wind
Gentle breezes can be a welcomed refreshment during the summer months but when the cold icy winds blow in the winter or during destructive storms, we are sent running for cover. The importance of trees when it comes to wind protection is greater than you would think.
Not only can trees act like a windbreaker, reducing wind damage, but homes that are surrounded by trees can thank these majestic beauties for reduced home heating bills – up to 30 percent.
Trees also have a significant effect on the reduction of snow drifts, which can be the difference between life and death in countries where snowfall is a regular occurrence during the winter.
This wind reduction can also protect our precious topsoil and reduce the drying effects it has on otherwise fertile land.
9. Good For Our Health
Aside from the environmental benefits that we can reap from trees, they have a significantly positive impact on our general health. It has been proven that regular access to and contact with outdoor green areas and trees can have a positive impact on our mental health.
People who live near trees also find they suffer from fewer allergies. This could be the constant exposure to particles and pollen that can come from our trees. The same goes for our immune systems. Coming into contact with trees and the outdoor world during our youth can give our immune system the turbo-boost protection we need.
Some lesser-studied benefits we might get from being around trees are a reduction in fatigue, an increase in focus, and even the ability to heal after surgery faster if we can see trees.
A study conducted by the University of Wollongong found that people in urban areas have a much lower risk of developing a variety of mental illnesses if they have trees close to their homes. They even found that neighbourhoods that have access to a tree canopy of 30% plus had lower odds of developing psychological distress.
We need trees more than we know. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and hug a tree.
Are There Some Trees More Important Than Others?
There aren’t any trees that are more important than others. Although, if you are going to embark on planting more trees in your area, I recommend sticking to native trees. Native trees will always grow better when they are planted in the country they have evolved to thrive in.
However, the importance of trees will vary depending on your area, the geological issues you experience, and the needs of your environment.
For example, the great oak tree has been revered for its ability to live for centuries. On average, an oak tree can live up to 600 years but it’s not just its age that makes it special.
The oak tree is also well known for its incredible carbon-sequestering ability. Put simply, the oak tree is the ultimate carbon dioxide store. This tree pulls a large amount of carbon dioxide from our air and stores it safely so that it doesn’t enter our atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Yet, the oak is a slow-growing tree and takes 100 years or more to reach maturity.
The eucalyptus tree can stand as a solitary statue in the vast Australian outback. This tree does its very best to reduce soil erosion in such an open landscape but it’s also incredibly useful. Parts of this tree can be used to make medicines that lower the sugar in our blood. It can also be used as an antiseptic and an asthma remedy.
Poplar trees are very good at purifying our soil. The importance of trees like the poplar tree could see a reduction of polluted and contaminated soils and aquatic systems like rivers, ponds and lakes.
The way I see it, every tree is just as important as the next. It just depends on what you need a tree to help you with that will determine the importance of trees to you.
The Importance Of Trees For A Healthy Planet
The world needs trees more than we may ever know. From housing our millions of animal species to protecting us from harmful sun rays and global warming, trees are one of nature’s great wonders.
Until we begin to appreciate the true importance of trees, we will never respect them the way we should.
They are the cornerstone of nearly every ecosystem on our planet. So, we need to start considering we handle tree management in our gardens, towns, and countries. It is up to us to ensure that we have enough trees to keep our earth thriving and breathing.