Ahh, the carbon cycle. How could something so simple be so important? And how do trees fit in? If you’ve temporarily blanked on what the carbon cycle is, let me give you a brief refresher.
The carbon cycle, as the name implies, is the movement of carbon through the Earth system. For the most part, carbon is present in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). It is released, for the most part, by the ocean, decomposition, and, of course, exhaling animals, such as humans. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the warmer the planet will become
So, what does this have to do with trees and why are trees so important? First, vegetation “scrubs” this carbon dioxide out of the air, through the process called photosynthesis. As a byproduct, the trees release oxygen, which helps us humans out quite a bit, I should say.
Vegetation is the most effective part of the carbon cycle in removing carbon dioxide (processing a thousand times carbon dioxide than the next best mechanism, the geologic cycle). And, drum-roll please, of all the vegetation, trees are the best and most important consumers of CO2.
Scientists believe that by planting massive numbers of trees in the tropical areas of the world, we could reverse the trend of global warming. Even though most of us won’t be able to contribute to that effort directly, planting our own trees locally is also beneficial.
In a nutshell (pun intended), planting trees are symbolically and ecologically beneficial. Every tree you plant contributes to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, at least part of the year. If we all planted trees, the cumulative impact or our intentional forest would be substantial.
Moreover, the act of planting trees has symbolic importance (which is why people plant trees as memorials and monuments, for example). Planting a tree can make a statement that you care about our atmosphere, our environment. Planting a tree is taking action, which is the first step in becoming active. It is also a visual reminder of the power we can tap into to change the world for the better.
Trees are critically important to our atmosphere. As our society releases more and more carbon dioxide through our industrial process, the importance of trees, and planting them, increases substantially. We can play a role in protecting our atmosphere and our environment both symbolically and ecologically by the simple act of planting a tree.