We Thank Tree, for all that you bring us! 🙂
What would we do without trees? Trees are those silent giants, gazing down on us from the background in our everyday lives, littering our pavements in the autumn by providing crunchy leaves to step on. Few things compare eating an ice cream on a hot summer day with the breeze softly rustling leaves in the background. Trees have been part of human mythology and history since the beginning of the times: the Vikings believed all the inhabited worlds revolved around Yggdrasil, a tree; the Bible and the Qu’ran talk about the Tree of Life or Immortality; Mesoamerican cultures revered trees. Trees are so important. I have listed a few reasons why, and I hope you can come up with many more and leave us a comment.
As obvious as it might seem, we can’t ignore one of the main benefits of trees. They absorb CO2 and release oxygen, thus cleaning the atmosphere of pollution and giving back clean air. They help reduce the greenhouse effect – in one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles or enough oxygen for 18 people. In fact, some of that effort in reforestation and tree conservation seems to be paying off since for the first time since it was spotted in the late 1970s, it has been reported the ozone layer hole hovering over Antarctica has stopped growing and might begin to shrink. This is incredible news that should encourage and spur us all to continue fighting for a cleaner environment, protecting our forest mass.
Self Sustainable Food Provision
We have all heard the saying; give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, give him a rod and teach him he will eat for a lifetime. Similar principle for planting trees; buy fruit from the shop, eat it till it’s done, plant a tree in your garden, supply for a lifetime. We do not all have the luxury of space to grow our own trees for fruits like delicious apples and pears but more and more community gardens are cropping up in cities all over Great Britain. UWS has one on each campus with SAUWS Environment charged with running and maintain these. Community gardens are a great opportunity to learn to grow your own food and offer space for sustainable planting such as amazing apple trees. If it interests you have a look online for your local area. See the bottom of the page for more information on the UWS Community Gardens.
When I was a child, I used to love, love, love Disney’s Pocahontas. I found the character strong, was endlessly fascinated by the colours (in the wind), and admired Pocahonta’s brave decision to stay with her family instead of going to England with her new-found love. I remember watching it for possibly the sixth time and asking my mum why was Pocahontas giving John Smith’s willow bark to cure his wounds. Turns out willow bark has been used for thousands of years! Since it contains high concentrations of salicylic acid, it has similar effects to aspirin and helps mitigate pain caused by menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Recently, scientists found a berry in Australia that destroys cancerous cells, while the tender insides of aloe vera are a common remedy for mild skin burns. The bark of cinchona tree contains quinine, which is widely prescribed to treat malaria in countries that can’t afford the expensive treatments provided by the pharmaceutical industry. Humankind has been using medicinal plants for at least 5,000 years, and they are the reason many of our ancestors survived.
Burning wood to create heat is an outdated, extremely polluting method. However, other methods use leftover wood to create energy. Biomass is the most prominent, using plant-based waste to create energy through burning. The main component is forest residue: dead trees, branches and tree stumps, garden clippings, wood chips, straw coming from crop harvest, and even municipal solid waste can all be processed and burned to create energy. Biomass can be processed to turn into biofuel, another form of renewable energy.
In hot countries, trees are used as a way to bring down temperatures in the city, which tends to trap heat in concrete. Romans and Arabs already knew this, creating urban oasis where the population could take refuge during scorching hot days. According to a study by the University of Manchester, tree shade reduces temperatures by around 5 to 7C. This reduction in temperature will also reduce the need for air conditioning in buildings, improve the air quality, and the quality of life, since it offers a beautiful sight and acts as a sound barrier of sorts. There are even some urban bus prototypes in Spain and the US that have a patch of grass installed at the top, thus counteracting the bus’ CO2emissions. Some bus stops in Sheffield have also installed patches of grass on top.
Intimately linked to the medicinal uses of trees, the beauty industry also sources some of its best-selling products from our forests. A good example is tea tree oil, which not only is disinfectant, but will also help with acne, dandruff, or dull hair. Tea tree oil products are everywhere and with good reason. Another star product sourced from trees is sandalwood – its very expensive oil is used in perfumes to add a deep, enveloping scent that lingers for hours. Rosehip oil helps with scarring, lavender oil helps with burns and sleep, and eucalyptus oil is used in perfumes and medicine alike.
Henna paste, extracted from the henna plant, is also used by many cultures in Asia and Africa to dye hair or draw beautiful, intricate designs on skin, leaving a dark red tint that fades away naturally after a few weeks.
Desertification is a real threat, not so much in the UK but definitely in warmer areas of our planet. Desertification is land degradation, when an arid area becomes a desert. It is a very severe problem in several countries, which are seeing how their natural bodies of water and wildlife are disappearing and giving way to unliveable, dry, arid land. One of the biggest projects to stop desertification is the pan-African Great Green Wall (GGW), an 11-country effort that seeks to stop the advance of the Sahara and Sahel deserts. The project has an international funding of up to three billions dollars, which will create jobs and boost the regions’ economy.The Sahel zone is the transition between the Sahara in the north and the African savannas in the south, and includes parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan. These countries, in collaboration with local farmers and inhabitants of the lands affected by the Sahel desert’s advances, are planting indigenous trees from drought-resistant species, mostly acacias, to form a 15-km wide band across the continent. During the rainy season, the trees go dormant and then when the dry season begins, they grow their leaves again. This means you can plant crops under the trees, in that nitrogen-rich soil, and the trees don’t compete for light because they don’t have any leaves on. This grows better, more abundant crops which increase food security for the farmers and their families. So, people using their ancestral knowledge of trees stops desertification and ensures food for all the family.
Sand dune preservation
Sand dunes are a common sight in our beaches and national parks, but they are endangered, threatened by human activity. Sand dunes are very important, because they’re a natural barrier to the destructive forces of wind and waves, our first line of defence against coastal storms and beach erosion. They are also home to unique wildlife.One of the best ways to protect our sand dunes is to plant trees and shrubs that will help the sand stay in place and move naturally. The trees and shrubs take roots and offer a solid base for the sand and the animals. Scotland has the most of the sand dune beaches in the UK and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Scottish sand dunes are threatened by for-profit, non-native tree growing that has overtaken dune areas, and by non-native shrubs that were planted originally to protect dunes but are now spreading, killing off native species. There are several privately and publicly funded initiatives in Scotland which seek preservation of Scottish sand dunes.
Trees bring countless economic benefits. A property near a park or on a leafy street will see its value multiply, as trees are beautiful and something buyers consider desirable. A community with a forest nearby can benefit from tourists who seek to get in touch with nature or sightsee. Someone with a few apple trees can sell the leftover apples and earn some extra money. The clean energy and forestry industries are some with the most future prospects, since our dependence on cheap, fossil fuel is coming to an end.
They are beautiful!
It is important to recognise their beauty, because not only are trees extremely useful, they are also gorgeous. There is no other way to put it. Trees are beautiful. They are the cure to all eyesores. There are few sights in the natural world more beautiful than a big forest full of lush trees, more majestic than an ancient olive tree, more colourful than an autumn forest, and few sights sadder than land recently ravaged by a forest fire. Their beauty is linked with reducing stress and depression in long-term hospital patients, and people have been decorating their houses with trees and plants for thousands of years. Botanical Gardens not only are educational, but also make for a beautiful stroll on a sunny day, and, like forests, fields, or jungles, are a source of inspiration to artists.
We hope that our extensive coverage of the importance of trees in our everyday life was enjoyable for you. SAUWS Environment is pleased to announce the confirmation of UWS Community Garden Tree week commencing Monday 10th November. The team have received a selection of trees to be planted on the Riverside Community Garden on Ayr Campus and we need your help!
Would you like to provide a habitat for wildlife? Provide food for the future? Make a positive impact on the environment?
Come along and join us, make your mark on campus… these will hopefully be around for future generations of students to enjoy!
No prior experience is necessary, all are welcome.
For further information contact: Melanie.firstname.lastname@example.org
So, tell us – what other reasons can you think of why we need trees in our lives? Let us know in the comments!
By Mireia and Liam