The urgency of reforestation to fight climate change, protect biodiversity and safeguard our future
Have you noticed that there is a growing offer of tree-planting programs across the world but don't quite understand the role trees play in our society besides providing oxygen?
We've listed 10 reasons why tree-planting is important worldwide, in rural and urban settings.
1. Trees provide oxygen!
Starting with the obvious one, trees are comprised of about 5% leaves, 15% stems, 60% trunk, and 20% roots. Through the process of photosynthesis, the leaves pull the carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20) from the surrounding air and with the energy from the sun convert these into chemical compounds such as sugar to feed the tree. The by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen, conveniently providing living organisms who require it to survive with a regular cyclical flow of fresh oxygen to breathe in. The Arbor Day Foundation states that certain mature trees (this varies between species) will absorb over 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a year, or if you like, the same amount of carbon dioxide that is produced to charge 1777 mobile smartphones.
2. Forests store more carbon than known exploitable gas, oil, and coal deposits combined
According to scientists, the carbon in readily exploitable fossil reserves could release 2.7 trillion tons of CO2 up to 2100. Forests in comparison? Forests store enough carbon to release over 3 trillion tons of CO2 if they come to be destroyed (such as for the increasing demands in "eco-friendly" paper and pulp-based single-use packaging), which would contribute to trapping heat in the atmosphere, aggravating climate change.
3. Trees mitigate climate change
Talking of which: mankind contributes disproportionately, through activities, waste generation, and industrial exploitation that requires the combustion of fossil fuels to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. It is estimated that 28% of all carbon dioxide emitted is absorbed on land and almost as much (25%) is removed by the oceans. As such, trees are needed to mitigate climate change (among other benefits) which itself makes forests more susceptible to uncontrollable wildfires, as transpired by the recorded increasing frequencies of occurrence.
According to a statement published by The Climate and Land Use Alliance, forests alone can provide 18% of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed through 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C (which requires keeping carbon dioxide emissions to less than 750 billion tons of CO2 in the next 100 years). The statement, signed by 40 scientists, say that “The ‘natural technology’ of forests is currently the only proven means of removing and storing atmospheric CO2 at a scale that can meaningfully contribute to achieving carbon balance. The world’s forests contain more carbon than exploitable oil, gas, and coal deposits, hence avoiding forest carbon emissions is just as urgent as halting fossil fuel use.”
4. Trees are natural air purifiers
Beyond sequestering carbon dioxide caused by deforestation and fossil fuel combustion, trees absorb pollutant gases. Through their leaves but also the tree bark, they absorb many pollutant gases that are harmful to humans, including those founds in urban settings such as nitrogen oxides, ozone, and carbon monoxide, all the while filtering particles like dust and smoke.
4. Trees are natural solutions to prevent soil erosion.
Trees can effectively reduce the rate of erosion in three ways. Their roots act as natural barriers that protect the soil from the impact of heavy rains and wind, keeping soil together. The roots also transpire large volumes of water and bind soil in particularly sloping land, holding it together. Similarly, mangroves are essential shoreline protectors and stabilizers, their root systems collecting silt and sediment brought in by the tide and as such keeping the soil in place.
5. Trees help us to concentrate and sleep better!
Trees are natural noise buffers, and when planted in neighbourhoods or around your home can significantly abate urban noise pollution, a phenomenon called sound attenuation. This naturally occurs when sound waves dissipate over distances until there is no more energy left to vibrate the surrounding air (which is what enables sound to travel, in case physics class is a long-distance memory). Trees contribute to the absorption of sound waves through their tree parts, especially rough bark and fleshy leaves. Trees also deflect noise when sound waves hit large rigid trunks that cannot vibrate, as such propelling the wave back towards the direction it came from. On top, sound can be refracted (like the echoes in an empty room) and masked by the natural ruffle of leaves and birds that call the trees home. Wouldn't you rather wake up to birds chirping than to cars honking on a Monday morning?
6. Improved overall health and wellbeing
Trees greatly benefit the people living around them by having a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing, encouraging time spent for recreational activities outdoors. A U.S. Department of Energy study reported that planting "noise buffers" composed of trees and shrubs can reduce noise levels by 50% as perceived by the human ear and there is no shortage of evidence that shows how reduced noise improves mental health, reduces stress, and anxiety and prevents the loss of hearing that can be caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. One Toronto study found that just 10 more trees in a city block improve health perception in ways comparable to being seven years younger!
7. Trees are natural cooling machines
Health risks increase with the prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures: our bodies are poorly designed to adapt to extreme heat, and face more chances of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and exacerbated chronic conditions (cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebral diseases), especially in vulnerable populations such as the young, sick and elderly. Trees that provide natural shade in our urban landscapes and create spaces in between buildings have the ability to reduce the "heat island" effect and cool a city by up to 12°Celcius. Keeping shady patios, balconies and building surroundings enable us to reduce dependence on air-cooling systems such as air conditioners, reducing energy consumption and lowering our bills.
8. Reforestation is essential to protecting wildlife from extinction
Reforestation creates more hospitable land where wildlife can find food and shelter, especially when it creates corridors to other forested areas or brings them closer to each other, fixing the damage caused by forest fragmentation. Documented observations have proven the success in reestablishing species that came close to extinction. In 2018, China made a pledge to plant 16.3 million acres of forest to increase forest coverage. In the Ziwuling Forest Area in NW China's Yan'an, Shannxi Province, 37 species under national protection have been observed thanks to reforestation efforts. It took 2 decades of "massive reforestation projects" but the researchers at the Beijing Normal University have been able, via infrared cameras, to check in on the wildlife's progress. Among them, the Amur leopard that is peculiar to China, with a 2020 population estimated at 110 individuals - the largest in number and highest in density ever recorded in China. In the USA. The black bear, a subspecies specific to Louisiana, east Texas, and western Mississippi was declared endangered throughout its range a little over 30 years ago due to the early 20th century's agricultural development that resulted in their habitat loss. But thanks to collaborative work between government agencies and private landowners, more than 700,000 acres of habitat were restored, and once listed endangered, the subspecies was taken delisted in 2016.
9. Reforestation is a gateway to providing education and community outreach
Involving the local communities with the tree plantings is an opportunity for volunteers to help restore the rich natural heritage of their area as well as building on a sense of community. To us, it might seem obvious why we would want to reduce our paper product consumption and maintain our forests, but for many living in the periphery of the forests, logging for personal use and income is a necessary means to survive. During tree planting, organizations can provide education on the fragility of the forests and connect on a human level with those who depend on them, sharing not only why reforestation is needed at the project site but how the newly created forest will benefit them in new ways. The n
10. Employment opportunities
Forest investments are good job generators! People are needed across the different aspects of a reforestation program: from employment for local and professional tree planters to equipment operators and nurseries, soil scientists and water engineers as well as trained staff to perpetuate the education locally, nurture the trees and expand the reach of the reforestation projects. This is true for all forest investments, as well as for conservation that for example invests in the expansion of National Parks that need park rangers, transportation workers, and other park and maintenance personnel. Improved park quality and animal habitats eventually become the basis for other types of economies such as eco-tourism.
For all these reasons, we are delighted to contribute to reforestation through our 1st Order: 1 Tree initiative in collaboration with foodpanda Singapore and supported by our tree planting partner of choice, OneTreePlanted.org. You can read more about our tree planting program in Indonesia at www.barepack.co/plant-a-tree and discover OneTreePlanted's many reforestation projects.