We’re celebrating the release of Tall, Tall Tree. But no matter their size, trees are essential for our health and the health of the planet. Here are just a few reasons why trees are important:
- They help us breathe—Forests pump out the oxygen we need to live and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale (or emit). Just one adult leafy tree can produce as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year.
- They’re more than just trees—Nearly half of all known species live in forests, including 80 percent of biodiversity on land. Forests teem with life around the planet: Bugs and worms work nutrients into soil, bees and birds spread pollen and seeds, and keystone species like wolves and big cats keep hungry herbivores in check.
- People live there, to—Some 300 million people live in forests worldwide, including an estimated 60 million indigenous people. Many millions more live along or near forest fringes, but even just a scattering of urban trees can raise property values and lower crime.
- They keep Earth cool—Trees absorb CO2 that fuels global warming. Plants always need some CO2 for photosynthesis, but Earth’s air is now so thick with extra emissions that forests fight global warming just by breathing. CO2 is stored in wood, leaves and soil, often for centuries.
- They make it rain—Large forests can influence regional weather patterns and even create their own microclimates. The Amazon, for example, generates atmospheric conditions that not only promote regular rainfall there and in nearby farmland, but potentially as far away as the Great Plains of North America.
- They clean up dirty soil—In addition to holding soil in place, forests may also use phytoremediation to clean out certain pollutants. Trees can either sequester the toxins away or degrade them to be less dangerous.
- They feed us—Not only do trees provide fruits, nuts, seeds and sap, but they also enable a cornucopia near the forest floor, from edible mushrooms, berries and beetles to larger game like deer, turkeys, rabbits and fish.
- They help us explore and relax—Our innate attraction to forests is part of a phenomenon known as “biophilia.” Exposure to forests has been shown to boost creativity, suppress ADHD, speed up recovery, and encourage meditation and mindfulness. It may even help us live longer.