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7 reasons why we should all be planting trees

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5 minute guide

Georgina Wilson-Powell

4 November 2017

It’s thought there are three trillion trees in the world. While that might sound like a lot, most of them are in the tropics - and we’re removing around 15 billion a year – and only replanting around five billion. 

A 2015 study, reckons we’ve lost 50% of the globe’s trees since humans were capable of swinging an axe while exploding in our own growth. Every year deforestation cuts through around 18 billion hectares of forest – that’s equal to the size of Panama. The forests are cleared to make way for mining, fracking and fast crops like soy. But despite all this, with all the trillions of trees we have going on, why do we need more?

Here are 7 reasons why it’s important to plant more trees

We spoke to Trees For Cities about why we should plant more trees and more importantly, some tips on planting trees.

How To Plant A Tree

An adult tree can absorb between 50-100 gallons of water from the ground a year

Trees produce oxygen

We all know this, we know that trees are the planet’s lungs but do you know how much they produce? It’s thought that a single year one mature leafy tree can produce enough oxygen for 10 people to breathe. Want to improve the quality of your air? Start planting trees.

Trees release water

Trees also produce water and are natural air conditioners. 100 gallons is what comes out of a mature tree a year. As the trees release CO2 through their leaves and the photosynthesis process, they also release water – 90% of a tree's water is released through its leaf stomata or pores as evaporation. This cools down not just the tree but the air and other organisms around it – one tree’s cooling effect is equal to 10 air conditioning units.

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“Japanese medicine believes spending some time amongst the trees can help lower our stress and blood pressure”

Trees also absorb water

By absorbing water in the ground, trees lower the stress on storm drains and mitigate any flood risk. An adult tree can absorb between 50-100 gallons of water from the ground a year, and their roots can help improve the soil quality and prevent erosion, so more water is held within the ground. Again, this is vital as seas levels rise and storms increase rainfall globally.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide

Trees play an important role in our carbon sinks. Over a year a single tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide. This is vital more than ever these days, as air pollution - particularly in urban areas - means the air we breathe is reaching (or exceeding) toxic levels. Not great as 80% of us now live in built up towns and cities. It’s thought that globally our forests absorb 40% of manmade CO2 emissions before it reaches our outer atmosphere where it can trap more heat. Because of their size and density, trees are much better than this than smaller plants. While all trees do this, the most successful ones are ones that are suited to the their location, so require little management or trees that have long lives and are fairly disease resistant.

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Over a year a single tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide

Trees encourage wildlife

It’s thought that in the UK 60% of our species has declined over the last 50 years. This includes birds, insects and small mammals. More trees means that these creatures have more shade, more homes and a stronger ecosystem that can help protect them.

We need to replace old trees

Most of the trees we see in our cities today are here thanks to our ancestors who planted them as long as 100 years ago for us to enjoy today. With growing urban communities, and increasing strains on the health and cleanliness of the air we breathe, we now need these trees more than ever.

But our urban trees are quickly disappearing. The trees our ancestors planted are reaching now old age; not to mention many of them are being lost thanks to urban sprawl and tree diseases. We need to plant more today, or our cities will be barely liveable in a few decades.

Trees make us feel better

Trees are not just about the benefits of planting trees has on the environment. It’s good for us too. They make our towns and cities greener and leafier and they actually relax us as well.

Have you heard of forest bathing (or Shinrin-yoku to give it its proper name)? It’s the Japanese practise of taking a walk in the forest to make yourself feel better. Japanese medicine believes spending some time amongst the trees can help lower our stress and blood pressure, accelerate our recovery after an illness, elevate our moods and concentration, boost our immune systems and our moods. 

How to plant a tree

Trees for Cities Project Director Lydia Davis’ gives her three essential tips for planting a tree

Think about timing

The best time of year for planting your tree is from October until March. This is because, like us, trees like to hibernate during winter and become less vulnerable when they are ‘sleeping’ so it’s less of a shock to move them than in summer when they are fully awake!

Find the right species

Tree planting goes beyond picking one you think looks nice. It’s really important to do a full survey of your land to consider soil quality, wildlife diversity, light and what other tree species are nearby. If in doubt, ask an expert to survey your land.

Make sure you get permission

Don’t forget to always ask permission of a landowner if you want to plant a tree! Even if you own your home, it’s worth checking with neighbours too if it is likely to block their view or expand into their land.

Don’t have a garden? Don’t worry

Check out the Trees for Cities website to find about upcoming volunteering opportunities in your area. Trees for Cities is an international programme that works with communities and volunteers to plant trees and green up public spaces. Over the last 25 years, they’ve planted over 700,000 urban trees in parks, streets, schools and housing estates, perhaps turning unused space into a garden or helping to plant fruit trees in deprived areas.

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