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5 Incredible Things Trees Give the Planet

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trees in a forest
Trees are a vital part of the natural cycle, providing important building blocks for life across the entire spectrum of nature. Just for starters; they provide nutrients, remove toxins, stabilise the land, contribute to the air that we breathe, cool the planet, provide habitats for wildlife, and provide us with raw materials.

As a society we often take the importance of trees for granted. Not only are they pleasant sources of shade and bearers of fruit, but they provide an answer to some of the most pressing environmental issues our world is experiencing today.

1. They act as natural filters for toxin

Most people are aware that trees get a large amount of their nutrients underground through their root systems. However, as part of the process which allows them to take up water through dirt, trees are amazing at also absorbing a whole host of unwanted and dangerous chemicals.

Removing harmful chemicals in this way is called phytoremediation, and humans have been using trees purposely for it for decades. Essentially, trees release certain compounds into the soil, which can in some cases detoxify specific materials. From there, they absorb other chemicals alongside water through the root system.

Together, this means that trees are responsible for keeping the ground clear for a whole host of other plants, as well as allowing us to use natural solutions instead of long-lasting and potentially dangerous manmade ones.

2. Trees keep the planet cold

There’s a reason you feel cooler underneath a tree, and it’s not just because of the shade.

That’s not to say that shade isn’t important; in fact, average temperatures in Melbourne have risen 3°C as the total amount of trees has declined, as they provide a barrier between the sun and the baking heat of concrete surfaces.

Without trees and other adequate shade surfaces, a city gets quite hot indeed (think of how hot it feels to place your hand on a road in summer). On top of this, when trees are covered in leaves, they produce a lot of water vapour that cools the surrounding area significantly.

3. Trees are natural fighters of bacteria

Did you know that trees regularly emit anti-bacterial and fungal chemicals?

It certainly makes sense for them to do so; after all, a fungal infection can prove deadly to a tree if it gets into the root network, but luckily they spread this benefit to their surroundings as well.

This allows other plants in the vicinity to grow, and has obvious applications for home and garden use. Just don’t try to plant one to get rid of an existing infection – they’re usually quite resistant, and the aerosol that trees emit is better as a preventative for future infections. In the worst case scenario, you’ll only end up contaminating the tree as well.

4. They block noise (and wind)

One reason that we use so many trees in landscaping (besides the fact that house prices go up about 10-15% when there are nearby wooded areas) is that when placed in rows they are effective sound dampeners.

They’re also an effective shield against the wind, or any wind-borne particles or irritants that might blow in. They’re much prettier, and more cost efficient, to introduce to an environment rather than a huge concrete wall, and have the added benefit of allowing space for additional landscaping underneath them rather than stifling room.

5. They help the soil around them (in multiple ways!)

A tree with a complex root network helps keep the stability of soil in the vicinity in check (and remember, large trees can have roots extending dozens of feet). This means that you’ll have less soil runoff, less erosion, and less crumbly or flaky soil in your gardens.

On top of that, the decrease in erosion also significantly reduces surface level water runoff, which means that water is allocated more efficiently and allows other plants more time to drink it in.

We’ve also already discussed that a tree emits a light cloud of water vapor as ‘sweat’ as well, which means that all plants around it get a very light drink across the rest of the day. While a tree needs a little bit more water than other plants to survive, it pays this back in stride; you’ll end up in most cases saving water by planting a tree overall as soon as it begins to take root.

Finally, trees drop leaves, bark, and other easily decomposable objects as part of their natural life cycle. This gets broken down in the soil, producing nutrients for both the tree and anything else growing around.

Trees are amazing custodians for all life around them. Trees can help keep other plants in good health and infection free, as well as providing us with oxygen, the raw materials we need to survive, and a whole host of therapeutic and medical benefits.

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