Even though I don’t want too many or big trees in our garden, I am well aware that trees are vital to the world. The only reason that I don’t want too many of them in our garden is that they wouldn’t have room to grow.
It’s kind of a luxury decision. After all, we live at the foot of a nature park that covers the mountains in front of our house. And behind the house is a little terrain covered with trees and shrubs. Plenty of trees in my environment to enjoy.
Planting trees is a very symbolic act. After all, who will survive who? Most likely, the tree will outlive the planter. I was very aware of this when we planted a fig tree and an olive tree in our garden together with our grandchildren.
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Table of contents
- 1 Why trees are vital to the world
- 2 Trees are amazing
- 3 The benefits of trees
- 3.1 Regulate water cycle
- 3.2 Provide jobs
- 3.3 Material
- 3.4 Habitat for wildlife
- 3.5 Improve soil quality
- 3.6 Prevent soil erosion
- 3.7 Food source
- 3.8 Battle climate change
- 3.9 Fight noise pollution
- 3.10 Combat light pollution
- 3.11 Provide oxygen
- 3.12 Clean the air
- 3.13 Cool the air
- 3.14 Create small ecosystems
- 3.15 Heal us
- 3.16 Bring people together
- 3.17 Are teachers and playmates
- 3.18 Landmarks
- 3.19 Beautiful
- 4 Ultimately
Why trees are vital to the world
Trees, the largest representatives of the plant kingdom, regulate the air, soil, and water around us. The world would be completely different without trees and most probably human life would not be possible.
Trees are amazing
Trees even communicate with each other and help weaker trees survive. The German Peter Wohlleben describes this process vividly in his book “The hidden life of trees”.
One of his remarks is “Some people put down tons of money for whale watching trips. Yet we don’t know anything about the largest living creatures on land, trees.”
Several lawyers are fighting for legal status for trees, so that action can be taken if trees are treated badly.
Monoculture is also disastrous in forests. Trees of different species and ages next to each other provide greater biodiversity, and also better-quality wood.
The benefits of trees
Regulate water cycle
Trees evaporate the water they use into the air thus making sure the atmosphere around it is humid. The moist air rises further, forming clouds, from which rain eventually falls, which the tree can drink again.
A perfect cycle, taking care of our need for freshwater. Deforestation disrupts this process severely.
Researchers, permaculture farmers, biologists, foresters, loggers, lumberjacks. Lots of people have jobs because of the trees. Besides these kinds of regular occupations, many jobs are created by reforestation organizations for local communities.
Burning wood is unhealthy. The smoke from a wood fire always contains harmful substances, such as carcinogenic hydrocarbons, particulate matter, benzene, and carbon monoxide.
This makes timber unsuitable as fuel. Yet wood is an excellent raw material for furniture, paper, and houses.
Habitat for wildlife
Have you read the story about the elephants that left their habitat in China and moved through the country, causing a lot of damage? They probably went on the move because they decided their living area wasn’t sufficient anymore.
The elephants are big enough to make a stand, but there are many smaller animals, insects, and birds that just go extinct without anyone noticing.
Improve soil quality
Trees extract CO2 from the air as well as from the soil. From the deeper layers, they bring nutrients up with their roots.
A healthy forest provides space for shrubs and smaller plants. Together with the leaves that fall in autumn, the ground becomes rich in humus and excellent soil for biodiversity and agriculture.
Prevent soil erosion
The roots hold the soil so that the surface does not erode. Trees on slopes prevent mudslides and mangrove forests off the coast prevent flooding from the sea.
Fruit trees and nut trees provide a lot of healthy food for us and the animals. The inhabitants of the blue zones mainly live on a plant-based diet and thrive. Many essential oils are based on parts of the trees, such as leaves, bark, twigs, or flowers.
Battle climate change
Trees purify the air, improve soil quality, prevent erosion, and many other things. As a result, they create microclimates around themselves, but also contribute to solutions for the climate crisis.
Fight noise pollution
Trees act as a natural noise barrier. They muffle the sound, which is beneficial to people (like me) who get sick from the racket, and to animals that live in trees.
Combat light pollution
In the same way that trees dampen sound, they are a barrier to artificial light. Bats, moths, and other nocturnal animals are disturbed by the street lamps that burn all night.
The photosynthesis in tree leaves converts CO2 into oxygen. The Amazon is currently emitting more CO2 than oxygen from targeted forest fires.
The trees are being destroyed to make way for soy and meat production. For years this is a reason for Tom and me not to eat soy or meat.
Clean the air
A tree absorbs pollutants (nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ammonia, and ozone) and filters them from the air by trapping them in its leaves and bark.
Cool the air
We notice it when Tom and I walk in the nature park close by but even more when we walk in a city. There is a huge difference in temperature between walking in the sun or walking in the shade of trees. Even the shade of buildings can’t beat that.
Create small ecosystems
Even solitary trees have their own ecosystem, but you can imagine that this applies even more to an entire forest.
When the Dutch princess Irene divorced her Spanish husband and came back to the Netherlands, many people laughed at her because she said she found so much peace by talking to trees.
Yet it is something you often hear people say. If you are struggling with yourself, go into the woods and let nature – literally – do its work.
City dwellers with a park nearby where they walk daily are more comfortable than their fellow residents who surround themselves with concrete all day long.
Bring people together
The first Dutch village where Tom and I lived had an old tree in the market square called Moeierboom (the mother tree).
This Tilia was planted around 1675 and is supported in various places because the branches break off otherwise. It is a popular place for both young and old to sit on the bench, meet people, and chat.
Are teachers and playmates
Climbing a tree, making a treehouse, and discovering which critters live in the tree. These are wonderful experiences that children have when they are lucky enough to live near trees.
‘The lonely tree’ is a special subject in photography. “And then turn left at that high tree”. How often would trees appear in directions?
I can’t count the times I have drawn a tree. I have studied at the Academy of Art, so you can imagine why. There are beautiful pollard willows in south Limburg, a province of the Netherlands. Crooked trees. Branches, leaves, enough to study on. Just beautiful!
The IPCC report of last week makes the dramatic situation of the world very clear. Are we just going to continue changing the climate? Are there really still people who deny climate change?
Apart from an occasional fruit tree, I will no longer plant trees in our garden. However, I will continue to plant trees. There are several organizations that accommodate such a service. While saving the environment, they also provide jobs for locals and often try to save endangered animals as well.
My organization of choice is Click-a-Tree. I like the enthusiasm of founder Chris Kaiser and the way they keep their planters engaged with information and the possibility of naming the trees (so far I have named a tree Diego, the other one Alex, after my grandsons. More will follow). Yet, any organization is fine, of course, as long as lots of people join in.
Have you planted a tree? Tell us in the comment box below.