The benefits of tree planting
Trees are amazing and fascinating organisms that make our world a richer, greener and more beautiful place. Planting trees in an area has a whole host of benefits for the environment and for local people. Tiny Forest, our community tree planting project, brings all these benefits to the many communities where we plant them. You can donate to help Earthwatch Europe plant Tiny Forests across the UK!
Here are five benefits of planting trees and why tree planting projects are so important.
Providing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide
Perhaps the most obvious thing that springs to mind when we think of trees is the supply of air they provide us with. Like nearly all plants, trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of photosynthesis. On average, one tree produces almost 118kg of oxygen every year.
A key element of that process is the absorption of carbon dioxide, helping us in the fight against climate change. A single tree can absorb as much as 22kg of carbon each year, potentially keeping it locked up in their wood and roots for decades or even centuries to come.
Here at Earthwatch Europe, our team monitor data gathered by citizen scientists to help us understand how Tiny Forests develop as well as measure the climate benefits they provide.
Homes for wildlife
Trees and woods are like cities for wildlife, providing food and shelter for thousands of species. For example, oak trees can support up to 2,300 species with over 300 of these entirely dependent on oaks for their survival. Many birds and several small mammals, such as dormice and bats, use trees for nesting and shelter.
Countless invertebrate species, from snails to butterflies to spiders, rely on woodland habitats. Bees will visit flowering trees for nectar and pollen, such as hawthorn and elder. The brimstone butterfly lays its eggs on alder leaves. All these animals, using the tree in a variety of ways, provide food for other species further up the food chain.
Tiny Forests are biodiversity hotspots, capable of attracting over 500 animal and plant species within their first 3 years. That’s quite an achievement for a young woodland the size of a tennis court! Since 1970, 41% of UK species have seen their populations decrease. Our wildlife needs a thriving network of habitats to help them recover.
Trees boost our health and wellbeing
Most of us will agree that a walk through the woods helps us feel better. There’s science behind this feeling! Trees emit phytoncides to ward of potential threats. When we breathe these in, it reduces our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and boosts our immune system. A 2017 study discovered that people living close to trees had better, what scientists called, ‘amygdala integrity’. This meant they had a brain structure that was better at handling stressors.
Other research has found that patients with views of trees heal faster and with fewer complications. When able to access nature, children with ADHD show reduced symptoms. Exposure to trees has also been proven to reduce mental fatigue and help our concentration.
Tiny Forests help local people reconnect with nature and access these health restoring benefits.
Improve our urban spaces
Trees simply make things better. Aesthetically, urban areas with trees are much more pleasing to look at and spend time in. But they also transform our cities in other ways by changing the environment around them.
Trees improve air quality. They take up pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ozone, ammonia, and sulphur dioxide. Trees can also filter the air by trapping particulates in their leaves and absorbing odours. Our large leafy friends also provide a cooling effect by reflecting sunlight and providing shade. This could be key to mitigating increasing temperatures and the ‘heat island’ effect in our cities.
Woods also help to prevent flooding. They slow down the fall of rain by intercepting raindrops, allowing some rainwater to evaporate before it can reach the ground. Trees soak up water and their roots enable it to penetrate the soil faster. This results in less surface run-off and more water storage. These stalwart sentinels also stabilise the soils where they are planted, preventing soil erosion and improving fertility.
Trees can even help to reduce crime! Studies have shown that bare neighbourhoods have higher levels of violence than greener ones. Trees and green spaces also reduce the amount of fear people feel.
We plant Tiny Forests at the heart of our cities and urban spaces helping to create thriving and climate-resilient urban areas.
Tree planting is fun!
Tree planting is a fun, social and rewarding activity. Community tree planting events happen all over the UK during autumn and winter. Volunteering on a tree planting day provides everyone the opportunity to learn how to plant a tree and appreciate the important role they play. It’s also a great way to get active, boost your mental health, and meet people in your community.
As you can see, trees are superheroes and planting more of them (in the right places) can only be a good thing! Tree planting projects have an important part to play as we continue to face increasing challenges from climate change and wildlife decline.
Donate today to help us fundraise for our goal to plant trees in 150 UK Tiny Forests by 2023.
Blog Cover Photo: Leicester City Council