Trees Provide 25 Eco-Services
Trees provide more than two dozen valuable eco-services, but rarely can I actually name more than 6 or 8. This essay is for future referencing, and contains a list of these services. If you think of others, please add them to the comments.
- Photosynthesis — This is the first one everyone thinks of.
- Food — Many fruits and nuts are grown on trees.
- Carbon Sequestration — Photosynthesis is the process where the plant converts carbon dioxide (CO2) back into oxygen (O2). The carbon atom is added to a chain or carbon atoms in a molecule — which becomes sugar, fat or a carbohydrate. 40% to 70% of this carbon ends up being extruded, through the roots, into to soil. This feeds a complex community of microbes, which store the fugitive carbon which was a greenhouse gas, in the ground, as living and durable (permanently removed) carbon.
- Wood — Again, probably one of the first “ecoservices” that comes to mind. Wood for fuel, construction materials, paper, furniture, pencils, and a myriad of other uses.
- Air Quality Improvement — Trees buffer winds removing particles from the air.
- Wind Management — As trees buffer winds, they also serving as wind breaks.
- Erosion Control — There are multiple aspects to this. The leaves dampen the power of the rain fall.
- Erosion Control — Tree root hold the soil in place, reducing mudslides and soil erosion.
- Stormwater Processing — There is an economic value to trees impact on stormwater processing and erosion control for municipalities. Additionally, it is estimated that in the US, two-thirds of drinking water is filtered first by trees or forest before entering a reservoir or water treatment facility.
- Increased Rain Water Absorption — Roots and other organic matter (microbes, dead leaves and decomposed wood) all increase rain water absorption. Each 1% increase organic matter can hold 20,000 gallons per acre.
- Soil Microbe Biodiversity — Organic matter in the soil creates a segway into SymSoil’s core interest, the soil microbiome. All plants need the nutrient cycling that comes from the complete, multifaceted microbiome. But grasses and annual plants rely more on bacteria. Trees need significantly higher quantities of fungi, which their extrudates feed.
- Fungi & Soil Remediation — like every other living creature, trees feed fungi to take care of themselves. But some common fungi are powerful at breaking down pollutants that are carbon chain based, such as petroleum products.
- Soil Formation — Some fungi also help trees by assisting in breaking down rock into soil, which assists root growth. This is most visible where you see small trees growing out of cracks in rocks. Look around you will see lichen nearby as well. Lichen is a community of algae and fungi.
- Soil Health and Surrounding Plants — The microbial biodiversity and quality improvements in the soil helps surrounding plants to survive, multiping many of the factors on this list.
- Water Filtration — Water that passes through healthy soil, not being absorbed by the roots or the microbes, moves on to aquafers or to lower areas is filtered by the roots and health soil.
- Dew Catching — When nightime temperatures drip to below the dew point, trees are a major concentrator and provide water for plant growth.
- Cooling Urban Locations — In a word, shade! This reduces temperatures and tempers. (Read more …)
- Cooling Buildings — While this is an extension of shade creating pockets of coolness, it is quantifiable in reduced energy expenditures. A cooler street has a residual effect on the buildings nearby.
- Urban Mental Health — Trees, in a variety of ways, calm the minds of people who see, smell and feel them. Call it Forest Bathing, Biophilia or the effect of the colors and shapes of the leaves. But numerous studies have shown that spending time around trees reduces stress, anger, confusion, fatigue, blood pressure and improves mood. This is measurable in stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
- Public Health — Exposure to trees boosts the immune system. Breathing near trees exposes us to phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.
- Noise Pollution — In addition to buffering winds, leaves buffer sound waves, reducing noise pollution which is another factor in stress reduction.
- Recreation and Enhancing Public Spaces — So many of these are interrelated, but the role of trees in park and children’s play areas cannot be ignored.
- Smell of the Trees — I’m uncertain if smell is part of #4 Air quality or #19 Public Health or should be included in the #21 the Enhancement of Public Spaces, but humans value scents, so this service deserves to be counted.
- Real Estate Valuation — Another quantifiable measure of the value of trees. Affluent neighborhoods are more likely to have tree lined streets or trees on the property.
- Removal Of Other Toxins — Less well known than the removal of carbon dioxide, tree remove Nitrogen Dioxide and Sulfur Dioxide removal.
Each of these deserves more than a sentence, but this list gives me a reference point when in the future.
Why does SymSoil care? We focus on solutions to environmental issues, with a focus on soil biology. Trees and plants feed, and are fed by, the soil microbiome. Healthy soil influences water, carbon sequestration and human health. SymSoil holds a patent on the first scalable approach to manufacturing Soil Food Web products as an alternative to agrochemicals.