Our forests play an essential role in the survival of humankind. Trees are so important that, without the more than 300,000 different species of plants currently covering the planet, animal life such as we know it would never have been able to exist.
As a vital resource for our society, trees have always been intimately linked to human evolution. Unfortunately, their importance and benefits have often been overlooked in the interests of urban development. And yet, the trees in our urban environments are indispensable in order for us to maintain an adequate quality of life.
The ecological importance of trees
Trees are givers of life. Generating oxygen through photosynthesis, they purify the air and are largely responsible for the emergence of animal life on Earth.
Here are some of the other ecological benefits of trees:
Trees promote biodiversity: a diversity of organisms is essential for maintaining the health of any ecosystem, especially a forest. The disappearance of even one plant species can lead to the extinction of 30 animal species. Plants are also an important source of food for many animals.
Trees prevent soil erosion: the foliage of trees provides organic material that covers the ground, thus stabilizing and regulating the hydrology of the soil, as well as groundwater levels. Tree roots also help hold the soil in place on slopes.
Trees improve air quality: plants absorb surface water, preventing it from flowing onto paved areas containing pollutants like lead and other waste that can contaminate our waterways.
Trees mitigate temperature fluctuations: trees release water vapor into the air through the process of evapotranspiration. Deforestation raises air temperatures and increases wind velocity. Therefore, trees protect us by acting as natural windbreakers.
The esthetic qualities of trees
Elegant and majestic, trees are veritable architectural monuments. They add comfort to cold urban landscapes and enhance the beauty of residences.
Furthermore, vegetation creates intimacy in certain spaces, as well as delimiting pedestrian areas.
The social role of trees
Trees and their refreshing colors have a positive effect on human mental health. In an often cold, concrete world, their blossoms and coloration provide a sense of peace and represent life, itself.
The importance of green spaces: green spaces like urban parks greatly encourage people to become more physically active. In an urban environment, these places are essential for activities like walking, running, cycling and relaxing in a natural setting. They also serve to bring people together.
Trees and medicine: a considerable portion of the food we eat and the pharmaceutical products we use come from plant extracts. One of the most well-known remedies—aspirin—is produced from the bark of the willow tree.
The economic importance of trees
Fruit production: orchards, sugar maple farms and fruit trees represent a significant source of income for their owners.
Drivers of the economy: trees have undeniable economic value in an urban environment. They also create jobs.
Increasing property values: trees can increase the value of a home by anywhere from 10 to 30 percent, while also enhancing the value of neighboring homes.