How Do Trees Help the Environment? (20 Helpful Answers)

We all know that planting trees is a sure-fire way to be environmentally friendly and that deforestation is bad for our planet.

But what about trees makes them so beneficial? How do they help the planet earth and human society thrive?

The following sections explain how trees stabilize ecosystems and support human civilizations.

20 Ways Trees Help the Environment & Society:

1. Trees Combat Climate Change

Climate change is largely caused by an excess of certain gases (emitted by human activity) that act as an insulator of the earth. One of these gases is carbon dioxide.

According to NASA, human activity since the Industrial Revolution has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 48%.

Trees inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, making us all able to breathe a little easier. Deforestation reverses this progress and makes the planet heat up faster.

2. Trees Clean the Air

Trees improve both indoor and outdoor air quality by absorbing pollutants such as ozone and sulfur dioxide. Bamboo palms are good at removing formaldehyde and carbon monoxide from the air.

Varieties of ficus, bamboo, and palm trees are great indoor options – just make sure you provide the right moisture and lighting. (Note: Rubber trees – a type of ficus – are toxic to cats and dogs. Click here for a list of pet-friendly indoor plants.)

3. Trees Reduce Carbon Footprint

Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store it. On average, a hardwood tree stores one ton of carbon by the time it’s forty years old, at 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. That’s a lot! But the average American produces about 21.8 tons of carbon dioxide per year. So we need a lot of trees to offset our activities.

4. Trees Prevent Water Pollution

Rainwater washes fertilizers, pet waste, and insect repellant into ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. But trees absorb groundwater and rainwater that may be polluted. Tree roots filter the water so that polluted runoff doesn’t harm larger bodies of water.

5. Trees Prevent Soil Erosion

Tree roots hold soil in place. This prevents dust storms and keeps building foundations stable. Plus, large canopies of leaves catch the rain, which lessens the impact of rain on the ground. This is how leafy forests can also prevent rainwater runoff, which displaces the soil as well. Stable soil makes for a balanced ecosystem.

6. Trees Conserve Energy

Trees provide shade, which naturally cools the surrounding area. A shaded building will have a reduced need for air conditioning in the summer.

Trees planted on the north side of buildings will act as a buffer for the cold winter wind, reducing the need to put on the heater.

7. Trees Provide a Habitat for Wildlife

Squirrels, birds big and small, insects, lichen, moss, opossums, koalas, monkeys, apes, lemurs, and so many other creatures call trees home. Animals go extinct because they don’t have a second home to flee to when deforestation tears down their only shelter.

Sharing a planet means we must respect the living conditions of our fellow creatures.

8. Trees Provide Wood

Before plastic took over our planet, we used wood for a lot more. Wood is a compostable, biodegradable, renewable resource (and paper is too). Just make sure your wood products and byproducts are not from old growth forests – those are not renewable resources. They take hundreds of years to develop and are complex, biodiverse ecosystems.

Pinewood and recycled wood are good options for household needs. Because pine trees grow so quickly, they are easy to regrow.

9. Trees Reduce Ozone Levels

Ozone is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It also causes air pollution, like smog. It can even cause health problems, such as congestion and chest pains. Tree leaves absorb ozone.

10. Trees Trap Debris and Dust

Dust and soot stick to leaves instead of blowing in the breeze, inhaled by humans and animals. Without leaves, the air would be riddled with dirt particles.

How Trees Help Society:

Of course, when trees help the environment, they help humanity, too. But trees do a lot more that benefits human civilization in particular, from the economy to city planning:

11. Trees Reduce Flooding

Because trees reduce water runoff and soil erosion, they lessen flooding too. Roots soak up water, reducing puddles. An area with trees is less prone to flooding than a street because trees absorb two times the amount of rain as asphalt.

12. Trees Provide Food

Pine nuts from pine cones, apples from apple trees, syrup from maple trees – the list goes on! Locate edible leaves, flowers, nuts, fruits, and even twigs near you here and enjoy free, nutritious food!

13. Trees Create Economic Opportunities

The Nature Conservancy has identified over 20 million acres of public land in the United States that qualify for reforestation.

According to American Forests Magazine, “Reforesting at that scale could require planting 6 billion trees, a scope of work that would create or support 582,000 jobs, from entry-level tree planters to forest workers and conservation scientists.” Plus, jobs that involve tree maintenance and groundskeeping will always be relevant to the real estate market.

14. Trees Cool the Streets

Trees provide shade, which cools surfaces by between twenty and forty-five degrees Fahrenheit, compared to surfaces without shade. Plus, according to the EPA, “Tree shade can slow deterioration of street pavement, decreasing the amount of maintenance needed.”

15. Trees Reduce Noise Pollution

Noise pollution causes stress and can disrupt sleep. Just by existing, trees disrupt sound waves. Tree trunks, branches, and leaves deflect and absorb sound waves, creating a quieter environment.

16. Trees Beautify Space

Does your home or building have a less than impressive view? Plant some trees! You don’t need to buy material things to beautify your space.

There’s no better photo background than natural autumn leaves or a graceful willow tree. Plus, when prospective students are deciding between colleges, a beautiful, tree-filled campus might make all the difference.

A serene, sylvan campus is ideal for most future undergraduates, whether or not they’re conscious of it.

17. Trees Increase Property Values

A property with a well-manicured yard and strong, mature trees is priced up to 10% more than the same property without trees or landscaping.

Think ahead on this one: trees take years to grow – plant them now if you want to sell your property later.

Maples, oaks, and other deciduous trees are highly prized in cooler climates, whereas fruit and palm trees are a sign of high-value properties in warmer climates.

18. Trees Improve Health

Whether you’re running in a forest or simply looking at a tree, studies show that being around trees lowers blood pressure and reduces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Hugging a tree releases oxytocin, the hormone that produces feelings of calmness. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that listening to the wind rustle through trees is relaxing – mentally and physically. In fact, hospital patients tend to recover from surgery faster when they can see trees outside their windows.

19. Trees Can Reduce Crime

Plant trees, reduce crime! Researchers at the University of Virginia deduced that properly designed green spaces, with consistent upkeep, can reduce violent crime in urban areas. Who would have thought crime reduction could be that simple?

20. Trees Promote Community

Forests provide a quiet place to walk with a friend. Trees are natural gathering areas. They provide easy-to-spot meeting places in the shade.

Trees are a place for kids (and kids at heart) to climb and test their limits, place their birdhouses, and hang piñatas. Trees connote life and liveliness.

Planting a tree is a touching, lasting way to commemorate a deceased loved one – by dedicating new life to them.

Final Thoughts on How Trees Help the Environment & Society

Planting trees and protecting our forests is essential for a healthy planet. Trees are vulnerable to urban and agricultural development, overly aggressive logging practices, and forest fires.

In 2020, wildfires tearing through 4.3 million acres emitted 112 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide – in California alone. Global warming creates the hot, dry conditions that feed these wildfires.

Planting trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – but we can’t forget to legally protect the trees and forests that exist.

Trees, though silent and humble, are highly valuable to our planet and to our health.

There is a term going around – not an official medical diagnosis – called a nature-deficit disorder. Richard Louv coined this term in 2005 to describe the variety of symptoms that children experience when not exposed enough to nature: “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses.”

Trees certainly are not something to take for granted.

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