The importance of trees and plants

How the health of trees and plants is vital to saving our planet from climate change.

Trees and plants are vital for a healthy, functioning planet. They provide habitat for other plant and animal species, and thanks to their ability to take in carbon dioxide gas and release oxygen, are often referred to as the lungs of our planet. In fact, 7-8 trees can provide enough oxygen for one person for one whole year.

They clean our dirty air, store carbon in their trunks and branches, and filter our water resources, so it should come to no surprise, then, that planting, preserving, and restoring trees and plants is vital to saving our planet from the negative impacts caused by climate change.

 

How trees impact our environment

Climate change is only exacerbating the concerning plight of trees in the environment due to increasingly severe and prolonged droughts, migration of tree species, more severe forest fires, and a rise in infestation of pests and pathogens due to warmer temperatures and less rainfall. Yet, trees help fight climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, lowering air temperature, reducing humidity, cleaning the air of particulate matter, influencing wind speed, and transpiring water back into the air which has a cooling effect.

Here are some critical ways how trees help our environment stay in balance and help fight climate change.

  • Influence rainfall patterns. Believe it or not, trees influence rainfall patterns in ecosystems. Forests absorb a lot of water out of the ground and through their canopy, which is is evaporated through their leaves into the atmosphere in a process called evapotranspiration. This process enables a forest to generate the energy and moisture needed in the atmosphere to create more rainfall events. As a result, planting or regenerating more trees and expanding forests can help drought-stricken areas to improve evapotranspiration.
  • Provide natural “air conditioning.” Trees are part of natural systems that cool the Earth. They help counteract the “urban heat island effect” in our city environments. Paved streets, buildings, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than the natural environment. Trees help shade building surfaces, sidewalks, streets, and other paved areas by deflecting radiation from the sun and releasing moisture into the atmosphere.
  • Protect against floods and water pollution. Trees provide a buffer against flooding and water pollution because the roots hold soil in place, which in turn reduces erosion of topsoil and prevents damage or pollution to water bodies and estuaries. By holding soil in place, trees allow for more water absorption and also help prevent flash flooding during heavy rainfall.
  • Home to millions of species. Forests are home to millions of different plant and animal species, from birds and bugs, to koalas and other marsupials. Whether the species actually live in the trees or depend on the forest ecosystem to live, trees play an important role in preserving biodiversity. Many species of animals that are endangered rely on tree habitats for their survival, and are directly impacted by reduced forest areas. In fact, the New South Wales government has listed Koalas as an endangered species, with numbers of these tree dwellers falling by 50% in the last two decades alone.

The relationship between trees and carbon dioxide

Restoring tree and plant Ecosystems in Australia

 

Australian forests have felt the heavy toll of climate change, most recently from the “Black Summer” catastrophe, where more than 24 million hectares of forest and bushland burned and directly caused 33 human deaths and 450 indirect deaths. As an added blow, bushfires release huge quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, further accelerating climate change. With this in mind, it’s more important now than ever to work towards restoring native forests and natural landscapes to mitigate the worsening impacts of climate change, including droughts, heatwaves, bushfires and floods.

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