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Trees are more than just a part of the landscape; they are a major source of support for life on our planet. When we step out of the classroom and get into the great outdoors, we can experience some of the benefits of trees in person, from enjoying the shade underneath them to watching the animals that live in their branches. Trees also provide oxygen and even help to fight global warming. Their importance extends far beyond their trunks and roots to touch every aspect of our lives.

Trees and the Climate

Trees are outstanding fighters in the war against climate change. They do the vital job of consuming carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and simultaneously release oxygen into the air. Trees can also lessen the effects of urban heat islands, providing shade and helping to cool the air through evapotranspiration. And tree's roots help to hold soil in place, which prevents erosion that can release carbon dioxide trapped in the soil. They can also help to absorb water from severe rainstorms and lessen strong winds. In all of these ways, forests contribute to a more stable climate.

Trees in Our Communities

Trees are the unsung heroes of our communities, transforming spaces into thriving, livable environments. They do more than beautify neighborhoods; they foster a sense of well-being and connection among residents. The presence of green spaces can significantly reduce stress levels, enhance mental health, and promote a more active lifestyle. And trees can be good for our economic health, too. Trees can make spaces more beautiful, increasing property values, and they can also help to reduce home heating and cooling costs by shading the house from the hot sun and helping to insulate it against winter winds.

Trees' Contributions to Biodiversity

Trees also help to support entire ecosystems by providing shelter and food sources for many species of animals and plants. From birds and insects nesting in the large canopies to mammals that play in their branches to the underground fungi that help plants acquire nutrients, trees provide a multidimensional habitat where life thrives. They also drop leaves and branches that are broken down by fungi and small animals, forming the base of the food web. Trees can even keep waterways cleaner; their roots are home to microbes that can help to break down pollutants before they can run into rivers and lakes.

Fun Facts About Trees

  • Between 1990 and 2007, forests worldwide absorbed approximately one-third of the carbon emissions from fossil fuels each year.
  • Research has shown that trees' ability to improve air quality actually saves lives. Analysis of the amount of pollutants that trees can remove and the number of people who die prematurely each year from health conditions related to air pollution showed that trees actually save up to either human lives in New York City each year.
  • Employees with views of trees from their offices experience notably lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction.
  • A single mature tree can generate enough oxygen in one day to support up to four individuals.
  • The Amazon rainforest alone produces more than 20% of the planet's oxygen.
  • Forested regions are crucial for supplying clean drinking water to more than 180 million people in the United States.
  • One mature tree can absorb nearly 50 pounds of carbon dioxide every year.
  • Strategically placed trees around buildings can reduce the need for air conditioning by up to 30%.

Additional Resources


Learn about the author: Ben Thompson