How much do trees mean to you?

This might seem like a strange question, but it’s important we acknowledge and respect the trees around us for what they do. With recent news stories coming out of Victoria showing that the value of trees goes far beyond what they do for the environment, maybe it’s time we all stopped to have a real conversation about our attitudes.

 

gum tree

It’s common knowledge that, without trees, there would be no environment for life to thrive on earth. Everything alive is affected by the health and wellbeing of the world’s tree population. But trees have an impact on more than the air we breathe – everything from our physical health to the environment and cultural significance. As the tree population around the world continues to diminish, inaction and ignorance are no longer viable options when it comes to our urban and forest tree population. Planting trees is a practical way to help our world.

But changing attitudes towards trees has to happen to ensure a lasting cultural shift. Understanding the significance of both deciduous and native trees in our urban settings and forests is the first step to appreciating and conserving the wellbeing of humans, the environment and wildlife.

 

Why Trees are Important: A 2019 Victorian Case Study

In August of 2019, roughly 50 people in Victoria protested the removal of a number of sacred trees by the Government of Victoria. Over 260 trees – including a traditional birthing tree – indigenous to the Ararat region, and sacred to the people of Djap Wurrung, have been flagged for removal as the Victorian Government prepares to start work on the $42million Western Highway Project. An official ground-breaking ceremony took place on Thursday to mark the beginning of the construction of a 12.5-kilometre highway that connects Buangor and Ararat.

 

 

While modern progress celebrated a new roadway, it is believed that these trees have been a part of the community for over 800 years. The birthing tree, in particular, has seen the birthing of about 10,000 Djap Wurrung babies and has ties to about 56 Djap Wurrung families. While speaking to NITV News, Erub Mur Islander Tarneen Onus-Williams, Yigar Gunditj, and Bindal stated that only one member of the Djap Wurrung family was consulted about the removal of the trees.

According to Ms Onus-Williams, a group gave consent to the road construction company, VicRoads, to bring down the trees. She, however, stressed that they do not represent the entire Djap Wurrung community, and are only representatives of a single-family. She further continued to stress that it is heart-breaking to see the trees that have the blood of the Aboriginal people and that have been a part of the community for over 800 years being chopped down. While such heart-breaking moments show the cultural value of trees, this is just one way in which the value of trees goes far beyond the obvious environmental impact.

 

The Importance of Forests

Forests are essential to the health of our planet, and this cannot be stressed enough. One of the main functions of vegetation and trees is taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen back to it through a process known as photosynthesis. The forests of the world are responsible for 35% of the oxygen used by living things, flood control, soil stabilisation, planet cooling, and freshwater purification.

 

 

According to the custom home designers at All Image, trees in forests play a very intricate role in ensuring the planet stays cool. They explain “by regulating the exchange of water and solar energy between the atmosphere and the planet’s surface. This can be factored into home designs in areas where tree coverage is abundant. So not only do trees maintain temperature, but they can also impact your power bill too.”

Of about 3 trillion trees alive today, 15 billion either die, are felled, or are lost in wildfires every year. If this issue is not addressed, our planet could up losing its last tree in about two hundred years.

 

The importance of Urban Trees

Trees in urban settings are essential for healthy living. Here is a look at some of the benefits of having a robust urban tree cover:

 

✔︎ Improved Air Quality: Apart from producing the oxygen we breathe, trees also absorb and store CO2. They also act as filters as they trap and hold dust, impurities, and pollutants.

✔︎ Increased Property Value: As trees increase the aesthetic value of a property, they create curb appeal, which ultimately translates to much higher property values.

✔︎ Improved Wildlife Habitat: When birds, squirrels and other wildlife start entering urban settings, it’s trees that create the microhabitats they need to thrive, seek refuge and acquire sustenance.

✔︎ Environmental Regulation and Control: According to home design and carpentry experts from DC Claddingmature trees within cities efficiently moisten surrounding air through evapotranspiration, reducing wind speeds, absorb CO2, and considerably lower the temperatures within city confines by reflecting off solar energy.”

 

Cities small and large across the country recognise the importance of a significant tree cover and have adopted or developed tree ordinances that protect the population and health of their trees. The best and most candid way to make a difference in our efforts to improve the world we live in is planting and caring for a tree. If we all did this annually, there’d be well over 75 billion new trees within a decade.

 

Trees and the Environment

Trees are the planet’s ecosystem stabiliser. As forest cover returns moisture to the air, it plays a crucial role in the formation of clouds and helps regulate weather patterns. And as earlier mentioned, trees are responsible for producing the breathable air all life on earth needs to survive. They also work as scrubbers. They remove pollutants from the air and soil and helps purify reservoirs and freshwater streams.

As they grow up, trees also grow down. Their roots are essential in the prevention of flooding and soil erosion. While wildfires cause massive destruction and are life-threatening, the soil left behind is nutrient and carbon-rich. Even though it takes time, most tree species somehow manage to repopulate areas ravaged by wildfires successfully.

 

The Role of Trees To Australian Birds and Animals

Australian insects, animals, fungi, bacteria, and lichen all rely on trees for food, refuge, and habitation. In both urban setting and forests, migrating bird species will often seek the same trees to nest year after year. As one mature tree can sustain several hundred types of species at a go, preserving the trees in our environment also means providing a home for the Aussie animals we all love and adore.

 

According to the bird proofing experts from No More Birds, the destruction of trees could end up driving animals towards urban areas. They explain “as trees are brought down, native birds are forced to change their nesting habits. This may mean certain bird species move towards homes which can cause damage. Or, these birds may leave entire areas which removes them for good.”

 

Image by Diane Pridham

 

The Health Benefits of Trees

Apart from all the amazing things that trees do to make it possible for living things to survive and in stabilising the atmosphere, there is another side to them that isn’t spoken of much in today’s society.

Sydney PPC expert Chris Hicksy believes more should be understood about the roles trees have played in our country’s past. As an amateur historian he explains “for millennia, indigenous people have treasured trees for some of their medicinal values. The leaves, roots, sap, and bark of some Australian tree species were once highly valued for their healing qualities. Outside of work I love reading about the significance of native flora, and I wish others would too to see how great a role they play!”

 

The art of healing was known to indigenous Australians and plants like Kangaroo apple, wattle, Old Man’s weed, and Hop Bush were often used to:

  • Cure toothaches
  • Promote sleep
  • Treat eye infections
  • Treat skin complaints
  • Treat cuts

 

The Importance of Trees to the Human Race

The fate of all life on the planet is interwoven with the survival of the existing tree population. If there were no trees to maintain and regulate the environment, there’d be no life on the planet. From the information provided here, we hope that you have understood the importance of trees in urban settings and forests and how they affect our health, the environment, and wildlife.

 

As global warming and climate change has become a serious threat to our world’s ecosystem, inaction and ignorance needs to be replaced by care and attention. It is high time that we took better care of our forest and urban tree populations for our own sake and that of future generations.

 

Wondering how you can help make a difference?

 

Some of the fabulous supporters of Fifteen Trees.

 

Find out what to do as an individual.

 

Find out what to do as a company.

 

Author Bio

 Charlie Wilson is an Australian writer and uni student living in Melbourne. He is passionate about technology and the latest innovations. Charlie also has a love for animal welfare, regularly taking breaks from work to volunteer with the local pet rescue.