If you think of the benefits of planting a tree you probably think about tackling the impacts of the climate emergency and deforestation on our ecosystems. These are undoubtedly huge benefits of tree planting and reforestation activities but it doesn’t stop there. There are numerous benefits of planting a tree that range from conserving water and protecting soil to improving our health and wellbeing.
1. Tackling Climate Change
One of the main benefits of planting a tree is the contribution they can make to reducing climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide which is a major greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and global warming.
Research undertaken at a Swiss University reported in the Guardian has found that a worldwide programme of tree planting could help to remove as much as two thirds of the emissions created by our activities that exist in the atmosphere today.
It is also one of the cheapest and easiest ways to tackle climate change. Tree planting can be undertaken on a huge scale meaning it offers potential to make one of the biggest impacts on climate change. Indeed the research suggests that reforestation is the top solution to the problem when used alongside measures to reduce our emission of greenhouse gases.
2. Producing Oxygen
Oxygen is our lifeblood and powers all life on our planet. Trees are responsible for producing around one third of the oxygen in the atmosphere whilst plankton accounts for the vast majority of the rest of it.
There are about three trillion trees on the planet but this is about half the amount there were before human civilisation. Now we are cutting down 10 billion more trees than we are planting every year. So tree planting is vitally important to tackle this deficit and ensure that the planet produces enough oxygen to support a rich and vibrant ecosystem.
3. Trees Purify Air
Another one of the benefits of planting a tree is that they help to purify the air by absorbing pollutants like nitrogen oxide, ozone, ammonia and sulphur dioxide. This contributes to our feeling of ‘fresh air’ in woodland areas.
Trees also filter particulates out the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark. These toxic chemicals are then absorbed into the trees through their stomata, which are similar to our skin pores. So they effectively filter the chemicals from the air leaving it fresher, cleaner and safer.
4. Benefits of Planting a Tree in Urban Areas
In our urban areas removing trees leads to increased temperatures as the shade they provide gets removed. Our synthetic materials like asphalt also trap heat more effectively than organic materials. Asphalt is actually so efficient that it traps 90% of heat creating an effect known as the ‘urban heat island’. This is why our cities and towns are between 1°C to 3°C warmer than neighbouring rural areas.
So it is not surprising that cities are starting to see reducing their soaring temperatures as one of the key benefits of planting trees and vegetation in urban areas. Trees don’t just help by providing more shade though. They also release water back into the atmosphere through evaporation which increases cloud cover and rain creating a cooling effect.
One clever way trees and vegetation are being introduced back into our urban areas is through the creation of green roofs on buildings. These rooftop gardens like those shown below often provide great recreation space as well as reducing the amount of heat absorbed by our buildings.
5. Conserving Water
Trees are vitally important in conserving water as well. Their leaves and bark intercept and absorb water before gradually releasing it back into the soil and air. An average tree can release as much as 250 to 400 gallons of water in one day and can store as much as 100 gallons from just 1 to 2 inches of rainfall. In total they return about 70% of water back into the air through the water cycle shown below.
For these reasons the benefits of planting a tree in areas far from water sources are even more significant. Large isolated land masses become deserts without trees which we have already seen happening in areas like central Australia and Africa.
6. Preventing Water Pollution and Providing Storm Resilience
Climate change brings with it the threat of more extreme weather events across the world. At one extreme we will see more periods of prolonged heat and drought whilst at the other we will suffer from more frequent and intensive storms. Trees can help to prevent flooding from storms by retaining water. So the benefits of planting a tree in areas prone to flooding like riverbanks and flood plains can be significant.
They also contribute to reducing water pollution by reducing the runoff into waterways. This takes with it sediment as well as pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus which can be swept up from fertilisers and waste on the surface.
7. Reinforcing Soil
Closely linked to this is the important role that trees play in reinforcing and nourishing soil. Tree roots hold soil together by linking different layers and stabilising them. The roots prevent soil erosion by keeping it strong and binded to the land. Topsoil is comprised of multiple microorganisms which are essential for fertility and trees provide a crucial role in ensuring it doesn’t wash off during periods of heavy rainfall. So protecting topsoil is another one of the benefits of planting a tree.
8. Supporting Biodiversity and Providing Homes for Animals
Trees are essential habitats for a huge range of wildlife. You can find everything living in trees from tiny insects to snakes, monkeys, birds and frogs. Indeed, the Rainforest Alliance estimates that around 70% of animals and plants make their homes in forests. Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to biodiversity and greatest contributor to extinction on the planet.
So it is clear that one of the most important benefits of planting a tree is to support species diversity. If we don’t maintain a diverse forest ecosystem then species that are specifically adapted to those conditions can no longer survive. This creates a vicious circle as the impacts of declining biodiversity leads more species to decline. Ultimately this leaves the whole forest ecosystem biologically poorer.
9. Sustainable Raw Material
When appropriately managed and responsibly harvested trees provide a fantastic sustainable raw material.
Research suggests that wood houses have total life-cycle emissions that are lower than similar buildings made from concrete (31% less) or steel (26% less). That doesn’t even take account of the carbon locked in to the wood itself which also helps to tackle climate change. Wood also provides natural insulation making buildings constructed from wood highly energy efficient.
However, these benefits only outweigh the negatives if the wood being used has been grown in a sustainable way. Crucially it is essential that it hasn’t contributed to deforestation.
Sustainable forestry is a complex and sometimes controversial topic but it basically tries to replicate natural processes of forest replenishment. It seeks to balance the demands of wildlife and the environment with those of people. The overall goal is to ensure our forests are preserved for future generations.
The best way to check if wood has been sustainably produced is to look out for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. This certifies that the trees harvested to make the wood are replaced or allowed to regenerate naturally.
10. Economic and Social Benefits of Planting a Tree
The sustainable use of wood is at the heart of ensuring we can continue to use it for economic benefits. Trees and forestry have been a source of income and employment for centuries with many indigenous peoples dependent upon them for their livelihood.
Supporting tree planting in areas where people rely upon forestry for a living is an important way of ensuring they can continue to survive and support their families.
11. Health and Wellbeing
Trees can also help people’s health and wellbeing too. Studies suggest that people experience less anxiety when exposed to trees and nature. They can also help improve concentration and reduce mental fatigue. So taking a break to walk through a wooded area is an easy way to relieve stress.
Improving health and wellbeing is also one of the key benefits of planting a tree in urban areas. Creation of green spaces makes our cities more livable and enjoyable places to spend time. The Royal College of Physicians suggest that trees and plants help reduce stress, anger and desperation. So more urban green spaces can help reduce pressure on our health budgets too.
Research has also suggested that hospital patients recover better when exposed to trees. This can be as simple as just having a view of trees through a window.
How To Plant a Tree
Now you know all the great benefits of planting a tree it is time to take action. It is easy to support reforestation with just a few clicks. I recommend using Click A Tree as they let you choose whether you want to plant a tree to support habitats for elephants, tigers or to protect marine wildlife and the oceans. All three are great causes so you can choose the one that is closest to heart or, if you just can’t choose, support them all.