Why Trees Can Help Us All

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By Meg Moon

Did you know that the longest living organism on earth is a tree? There is no other creature on the whole of planet Earth that lives as long as a tree does. Believe it or not, trees only came into existence during the last 10% of the planet's history, appearing only 350 million year ago. Now, however, there are over 60,000 species that make up the foundation of our paradise for humans and animals alike.

Trees are so magical, in fact, that they even speak their own language. Well, sort of. While you spend a sunny afternoon walking through a canopied forest, an entire communication system exists underneath your feet, fondly referred to as the 'wood wide web.' This is where fungi sends messages between trees, plants and other organisms. Amazingly, it is used to create signals for changing environments, offering nutrients to other plants and searching for their relations. This kind of network allows them to transfer water and nutrients to each other, meaning the larger trees can look out for the smaller seedlings too. This discovery was made only around 20 or so years ago, by ecologist Suzanne Simard, and while trees benefit each other, they also take care of us too.

Trees Help Us Fight Against Climate Change

Let' s start with the environment. Although the earth naturally goes through cycles of climate change, the biggest contributor in our lifetime is humans. Our modern day existence creates high levels of carbon dioxide, linked to global warming. As carbon dioxide builds in the earth' s atmosphere, a 'greenhouse' effect is produced, creating a warmer climate.

Tree ' s cleverly consume their food through a process called photosynthesis. They absorb the carbon from the air and retain it in their wood. The benefit of this means, they can store the carbon dioxide, slowing down the rate of the greenhouse effect. It' s important that we continue to plant new trees for this reason, but even more significantly, we must conserve the oldest trees too, as they hold more carbon than the young ones.

The World' s Water Cycle

Although many of us grumble about the rain and its grey drizzle (at least here in the UK), we know deep down that it is a vital source. As the rain hits the ground, it is absorbed by trees and plants which is released back into the air through transpiration. This means they keep the perfect level of humidity, allowing the water cycle to stay in balance. Trees also act as a natural filter. Forests, specifically, eliminate sediments and pollutants, and slowly let the water back into waterways contributing to clean drinking water.

They Remove Air Pollution

While they offer us clean water and save us from greenhouse gases, trees also purify the air. They can eradicate the most harmful particles of air pollution. Acting as an air filter, it removes unhealthy air, produced through the burning of fossil fuels. Not only this, but as they absorb carbon dioxide, they also generate oxygen as a bi-product, which of course we use to breathe!

They Impact Our Health and Mental Wellbeing

One benefit that we see the immediate effects from, is the impact trees have on our mental and physical health. Green spaces entice us in, for a jog around the park or a walk in the forest, helping us exercise, with nature lowering the rates of obesity. But it doesn ' t stop at physical health, research has shown us the correlation between nature and reduced rates of anxiety and depression. There are multiple psychological benefits from walking in spaces surrounded by trees, such as reducing levels of stress, tiredness, confusion and there are even suggestions that spending time with them, makes us kinder to others.

Habitat for Wildlife and Humans

Whatever the time of year, trees will always be important. In the summer they provide shade, while in the winter they offer shelter. For animals, even a single tree can be crucial, creating a home for many species. Imagine how beneficial an entire forest can be! It generates multiple habitats, from those who live on the ground, to the species that live high in the treetops.

Trees spend their lives looking after generations of people and animals, and it' s only right that we look after them too. Despite the enormous benefits, we often take trees for granted with deforestation proving devastating impacts. They are our lungs and our homes and we must fight to protect them.

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