Trees and the Ecosystem Services They Provide
Trees have fascinated human beings since time immemorial. They have provided us with food, shelter, clothing and countless other resources that have sustained humans since the dawn of human evolution. It is, therefore, not surprising that trees are revered in many religions all across the world.
Humans look at trees as a natural resource that can be exploited for their gains. However, apart from the many materials that trees provide us, trees also perform extremely important functions that are not that noticeable to all of us. These functions are called ‘ecosystem services.’
Ecosystem services are those actions that are vital for the entire ecosystem to function effectively. Trees act as indicators of an area’s ecological health. Have you ever walked under the shade of a tree after walking in the sun? Did you notice how instantly cool it is under the shade of a tree? You would have also noticed that an area with a more tree cover is always cooler than the one with less tree cover. This is one of the most vital services provided by trees to a local area.
Trees act as natural coolants and thereby reduce the need for energy-intensive options for cooling. This can help in reducing energy consumption especially in urban areas where tree cover is significantly lesser.
Another important function of trees is to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Sequestration of carbon is the process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing in it either liquid or solid form. This process can be done naturally or artificially. Trees provide this service naturally and free of cost!
Carbon dioxide which is a Green House Gas that is the cause of global warming on our planet is thus removed by trees, thereby significantly reducing the rising global temperatures. Thus, trees help in reducing global warming and fighting climate change.
Trees also act like efficient air-cleaning machines. You may have noticed a lot of new products in the market that claim to purify the air in your homes. These machines are expensive and require a lot of maintenance. But did you realize that trees provide these services without any cost? They remove many pollutants from the air, including harmful gases like Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and Particulate Matter that leads to air pollution.
Today, residents of the largest cities in the world face serious health issues due to breathing unhealthy air. Therefore, planting more trees or protecting the existing trees cover in your area is vital to having a healthy lifestyle due to the air purification provided by the selfless trees.
Another important function that trees provide to cities is that they prevent excess stormwater runoff by collecting the rainwater on leaves, branches and trunks. This intercepted water evaporates into the atmosphere and some of it is soaked into the ground by the roots, thereby reducing the amount of excess water that needs to be drained by city authorities to prevent flooding in urban centers.
A study conducted by researchers of College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, estimated that trees provide an average of $505 million in benefits to each megacity every year, or about $1.2 million per square kilometer of trees! That is a lot of money which we never think of. Imagine the amount of money that our city authorities would have had to pay to conduct these essential services using human technology. To think that trees provide these services for absolutely zero cost.
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that our ancestors highly valued trees. While the concept of ecosystem services is recent to human understanding, it only cements the notion that saving trees and planting more trees is extremely beneficial to humans.
Thus, it becomes necessary that we must look at the conservation of trees as of vital importance not only in forested landscapes but also in urban areas.
To know more about trees and their importance, especially in urban areas watch the video given below.