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The Importance of Trees

TreesTrees are essential for our lives

Since humankind evolved, trees have given us food and oxygen. Later on in our development as a species we learned to use them for shelter, medicine and even tools, and they are no less important in the modern era. Not just there for firewood and furniture, trees have many benefits to humanity, both practical and emotional.

Social value

Trees help to make a neighbourhood – parks, gardens, sidewalks and schoolyards are all enhanced by trees. Trees attract wildlife, provide us with shade and offer focal points for family and community gatherings. They also act as landmarks and living historical monuments.

City trees help to combat the urban heat island effect which can raise city temperatures by as much as 3C above the surrounding areas.

Environmentalvalue

Trees produce oxygen, improve air quality, preserve soil integrity, cool surroundings and encourage wildlife. During photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide – an acre of forest absorbs six tons of CO2 and releases four tons of O2 annually – enough to keep 18 people alive for a year. They also filter out the air, removing dust and particulates, as well as sulphur dioxide.

They also lessen the effects of the sun, wind and rain. They absorb the sun’s energy, cooling hot air, they also provide shade and buffer strong winds, protecting people, animals and buildings from rain and snow.

Ecological importance

Below ground, tree roots retain soil, preventing erosion. Above ground they collect rainwater, which reduces run-off after storms, reducing flooding. Fallen leaves turn into great compost, feeding the soil.

Many animals eat leaves, and even bark, as well as the fruit – as do we humans. Lots of animals also make their homes in trees – birds, insects and squirrels, for example.

Personal value

Humans like trees because they look beautiful and each one is unique, even within the same species. They also change with the seasons, have long lifespans and are seen as solid and dependable. Many people mark life events by buying trees from suppliers and planting them in their gardens.

Trees grow with families and communities – how many villages have a central tree that all the children play in? How often do people protest to save “special” trees from developers?

Practical values

Humanity’s first fuel was probably wood and around half of us still use it for heating and cooking. We also use trees for timber, furniture, tools, sports equipment and, of course, paper.

Trees also provided us with some of our first medicines – quinine and aspirin, to name but two. We also collect latex from trees to make rubber, and various resins to make varnishes and glues.

Economic values

A well-designed and maintained landscape raises property values, and real savings are made by having trees around a house. Shade trees can means less money spent on air conditioning in the summer, and screen trees act as windbreaks, helping to keep houses warmer in winter.

Good-looking gardens can raise property values by as much as 20% over non-landscaped properties. Money spent on landscaping is well worth it, reaping 100-200% of its value during a sale. A kitchen remodelling brings in only 75-125%, for comparison, so get planting!

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