Nature Impacting Nature – The Roles Trees Play in Nature

Nature has always been very fascinating, and when talking about it, we have always been tempted to see humans and things that relate to humans. We most often relegate other forms to the background or even completely neglect them.

When we do talk about them, we mostly talk about animals especially from the angle of ensuring that some endangered species do not go into extinction. Nature is more than all these. It is more about living things and nonliving things or phenomena predating human technology that surround them.

Only very few people remember that trees are nature and actually play important and vital roles that positively affect other forms of nature. The roles played by trees are central to the survival of every living thing.

The following are the essential roles played by trees.

  1. Windbreaker

On Sunday the 10th day of September 2017, Hurricane Irma pummelled the state of Florida in the United States. Though Miami did not sustain a direct hit from Hurricane Irma but did suffer some damage.

Irma was reported to be one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes, of category 5 storm and with winds of 180 mph, ever experienced by man.

As the reports of the impending phenomenon gained ground, people scampered from one section of the state to other evacuating valuables, jittery, and confused. Security and other related agencies were put on red alert.

As all these evacuations were going on, one thing nobody gave a single thought to was how trees were going to fare. They were completely and absolutely forgotten. But they were there.

Incidentally and rather to the amazement of everybody, these neglected and forgotten form of nature were the only ones that stood their ground and gave Irma a fight.

Trees faced the fury of the ravaging hurricane which bore down on them with all its venom, intent on destruction and annihilation as if it were on a vengeance mission. But they stood and couldn’t run even if they wanted, all alone, to the mercy of the superstorm.

They did everything they could to break the storm. A lot of them were broken, thorn, and severely damaged. Some even died as a result of the onslaught.

Physicists for sure will probably explain Irma away as a simple agitation or disturbance that resulted in the transfer of kinetic energy via the hurricane. But, what a price to pay by nature for the “simple disturbance.”

One important role trees play is that of a windbreaker and through that, impacting the lives of other living things as well as impacting some natural phenomena.

  1. Removal of CO2

Carbon dioxide is known the world over as one of the greenhouse gases that has put nature into a quagmire. While animals and plants release CO2 into the atmosphere, only plants which a tree is one absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere.

A tree has been found to absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. By the time a tree reaches 40 years it must have removed about one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is quite an incredible stuff from trees.

As man through his activities most often with careless abandon destabilizes the ecosystem by injecting this potentially harmful and toxic substance into the atmosphere. Trees quietly and serenely sequester the gas away, with the singular purpose of restoring back the equilibrium.

  1. Home for animals

A lot of animals naturally live on trees. These are known as arboreal animals and even some like monkeys make use of trees to aid their locomotion. Apart from living on trees directly, birds also make use of twigs cut off from trees to build their nests for the purpose of propagation.

In some parts of the world, huts which are directly made from branches of trees and leaves are still used for residential purposes by humans. Where buildings are constructed, wood still plays a major role right from the fabrication stage to the finishing.

The most furniture we use in the house is mainly made of wood which is got from trees.

  1. Source of food

Most people when talking about trees usually think in terms of lumber and paper as products that are got from trees. We tend to forget that products that are got from trees vary from food to toys to instruments to packaging.

The food we get from trees can either be natural or synthesized.

The natural food we get from trees come in the forms of fruits (mangoes, apple, orange, date, and almond), tubers and roots (yam, potato, and cassava), seeds (wheat, rice, millet, sorghum, barley, and maize), and assorted vegetables.

Trees and other plants produce the food we eat, that means that without trees and the other plants, humans and other animals cannot survive. Their survival is unequivocally based on trees and other plants.

Even animals that feed solely on flesh feed indirectly on plants since their preys have to depend on plants for food.

  1. Provision of oxygen

No activity of humans and other animals can go on without energy. To synthesize energy, the trees come in again.

Oxygen is released by trees that enable us to metabolically break down carbohydrates and other related food substances during the process of respiration in order to avail ourselves of the much-needed energy.

One large tree is said to supply enough oxygen that will be sufficient for up to four people in a day.

Another way trees affect the energy cycle is by reducing peak summer temperatures. A mature tree has been found to reduce this temperature by 20 to 90 Fahrenheit.

Before the discovery of fossil fuels, the world had completely depended on trees for wood and generation of heat. With the consequent unabated discharge of greenhouse gases emanating from fossil fuels into the atmosphere and the attendant catastrophic occurrences associated with the discharge, humans might be forced to look the way of trees once again for the supply of energy.

  1. Reduction of soil erosion

When trees shed their leaves, the leaves fall down to the soil, get rotten and decompose. The decomposed leaves are broken down by the action of microorganisms thereby enriching the nutrient content of the soil for agricultural purposes.

The roots of the trees penetrate the earth’s surface, giving it a rigid posture and holding it firm to reduce the activity of erosion.

This action translates into the conservation of the topsoil both for agricultural purposes as well as safeguarding microorganisms that are primarily habiting on the soil.

  1. Medicinal use

Before the advent of modern technology, humans virtually depended on trees for medicine. The roots, bark, and leaves have been used severally for this purpose. Drugs are invariably got from trees to date.

Quinine which was the only agent to treat malaria is got from the bark of various species in the genus Cinchona, which are large evergreen shrubs or small trees native to tropical South America.

Wild are animals which are not herbivorous have been found to eat up leaves from time to time. This is because they resort to trees and other plants for the treatment of different ailments.

Apart from the usage of extracts from trees as drugs, they are also sources of essence and flavors used in enriching different drinks and other beverages.

We can go on and on to elucidate the potential benefits nature derives from trees but that will not be necessary. The fact remains, however, that more than 5,000 products are made from trees.

Some countries conserve certain species of trees for educational and research works as well as for tourism. These countries have been able to garner great revenues from these ventures.

Plant a tree today, help in conserving a tree today and you will be doing mother nature a great service. We are all elements of nature.

Photo Credit: Dave Hilditch Photography Flickr via Compfight cc


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About John Ejiofor

John Ejiofor is a curious life-researcher, whose quest to finding answers to life's pertinent questions has led to founding Nature Torch. This blog aims to debate and explore many questions about our earth -- including those a lot of people are uncomfortable with asking. He has been published on some of the internet's most respected websites, which you can find online.
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