Produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide
Trees are necessary for our survival. Through photosynthesis trees produce the gas that we cannot live without: oxygen (O2). As we breathe in, our bodies take in oxygen and when we breathe out, we release carbon dioxide (CO2). Trees do the opposite. They take in CO2 and release O2. This cleans the air by removing harmful CO2 so that people and animals can breathe.
That’s a lot of fresh air! On average, a broad-leafed tree will absorb about 10 kg of CO2 per year.
Moderate temperature and rainfall
Trees help cool the earth’s tempearature.
Trees are like natural air conditioners and water pumps. They cool the earth by giving shade and recycling water. By cooling the air and ground around them, the shade from trees helps cool the earth’s temperature overall. Trees also help moderate the earth’s rainfall, which also helps keep the temperature cooler.
If you are at the beach and you come out of the water in a wet bathing suit and lay in the sun, the sun’s heat removes the water from your bathing suit and soon you are dry. This is called evaporation: when water is removed by heat.
Forests help to make sure we get rain. Trees absorb a lot of water from the soil for nourishment. Later, when the sun shines on the trees, water is released from the leaves and absorbed back into the atmosphere – just like the water is absorbed from our bathing suits. When the sun’s energy removes water from the earth’s surface, the water collects into clouds, and when the clouds are heavy with water they release rain back to the earth.
Provide food, medicine, shelter and warmth
Cork used in a cork-board.
Every day we use or eat something that has come from a tree. Think about the paper we write on, the pencils we use and the furniture we sit on – they all came from trees. The uses of wood are virtually endless. In addition to being processed into products, trees are also cut down so their wood can be used as fuel to cook food and heat homes.
But we don’t always have to cut down a tree to be able to make something from it. The rubber that you find on soles of your shoes is made from sap that comes from a type of tree found in Brazil, India, China and Southeast Asia. Cork is the bark of the evergreen cork oak found in the Mediterranean region. Cork has the ability to contract when squeezed and then expand back out again. The evergreen cork oak is one of the few trees that does not die when its bark is removed.
Coconuts on a palm tree.
What about the things we eat? How many different fruits or nuts can you think of that come from trees? What about the maple syrup we like to eat on our pancakes? Sap is tapped from the sugar maple to make maple syrup. And did you know that cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree that grows in India?
Willow away the pain! The active ingredient in acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) originally came from the bark of a willow tree.
There are also many plants that have life-saving properties. About $30 billion is spent every year in Canada on prescription and non-prescription drugs that contain active ingredients that come from forests. Illnesses such as malaria, hypertension, heart disease and cancer are all treated with medicines made in part from plants.
Forests are communities full of organisms that depend on each other for survival. We call these communities ecosystems. All parts of a forest ecosystem and the interactions between them are needed for the health and well-being of all. Forests offer food, water, shelter and protection for an incredible array of wildlife.
The term “biodiversity” is used to describe the variety of life. This variety is what an ecosystem depends on. It is helpful to think of an ecosystem as a woven carpet; if you pull on a loose thread, it might only affect the thread and those closest to it or it might unravel the whole carpet.