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27 Facts About Forests and The Trees Among Them

Why Are Trees So Important? 27 Facts That Prove The Imperative Role They Play for All Life on Earth

The significance of forests goes far beyond a mere assemblage of trees. They are intricate ecosystems that interweave numerous species and span diverse terrain. Additionally, they are nature’s benevolent providers, contributing to our planet in numerous ways, such as absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, cleaning the air by filtering pollutants, producing oxygen, providing shelter and food for wildlife, stabilizing soil, producing food and medicine, protecting from harmful UV rays, cooling our environment, conserving freshwater resources, and many more!

Forests and trees have been a critical aspect of human life since the beginning of time and continue to be so today, providing us with necessities like food, shelter, and shade. This deep-rooted connection to trees is a universal human experience.

Why Trees Are So Awesome: 27 Surprising Facts About Our Forests And How Deforestation Impacts Us All Around The World:

1. More than 60% of the world’s anti-cancer drugs come from natural sources, many of which are found in rainforests. These plants have played a crucial role in developing life-saving medicines, with new discoveries being made regularly. The continued availability of these treatments depends on the preservation of healthy forests.

2. Tropical forests are a vital source of medicine, with 25% of all modern medicines originating from forest plants. This includes 2/3 of all cancer-fighting drugs, which are worth an estimated US$108 billion annually. This is just one example of why rainforests are so valuable and important to our lives.

3. Trees are responsible for redistributing almost all the water they absorb. Trees absorb rainwater into their roots and leaves, reducing the risk of erosion and flooding. They then release 95% of it back into the air through transpiration, creating a cooling effect that impacts local microclimates

4. One tree can replace the need for two central air conditioning units. Trees have the ability to regulate air temperature, reducing the need for heating and cooling systems. Strategically placed trees can lower air conditioning expenses by up to 30% and heating costs by half.

5. Forests blanket 31% of the Earth’s land. The total forested area covers 4.06 billion hectares, and about half of that area is relatively undisturbed. Approximately one-third of this is primary forest, meaning forests that show no obvious signs of human activity and have ecological processes that remain largely undisturbed.

6. Tropical rainforests occupy a small portion of Earth’s land, yet they harbor over half of all terrestrial animal species. It is estimated that one hectare of tropical rainforest can host as many as 750 tree species and 1500 species of higher plants.

7. We lose a football field’s worth of primary rainforests every six seconds. Approximately 3.8 million hectares, or nearly one-third of the total loss, occurred in humid tropical primary forests, which are crucial for biodiversity and carbon storage due to the presence of mature rainforests.

8. 460 trees are needed to absorb all the emissions released in one year from one single car! A typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. To offset this impact, it is estimated that vehicle owners would need to plant 460 trees, as each tree can absorb an average of 22 pounds of CO2 per year during its first 20 years of life. This highlights the importance of tree planting in reducing the environmental impact of transportation.

9. One person requires 7 to 8 mature trees per year to have enough oxygen to breathe. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees transform carbon dioxide and water into glucose using solar energy, releasing oxygen in the process. While some of the produced oxygen is used by the trees to fuel their metabolic processes, they still produce more oxygen than they consume on average.

10. Planting just one tree in an open field can help increase the biodiversity of bird populations from nearly zero species to as many as eighty. As one tree is joined by others, a forest slowly begins to form and, with it, an increase in biodiversity. When the forest cover reaches 100%, rare and threatened species take up residence, including large predators and deep forest birds, resulting in a greater variety of species within the same area. This helps promote the health of the ecosystem, increasing its overall richness.

11. Although from 1982 to 2016, the planet lost an area of more than 1.33 million square kilometers of trees, mostly in the tropics, the silver lining is that we gained approximately 3.5 million square kilometers of tree cover in other parts of the world, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a positive indication of our collective effort to protect and conserve the environment. To ensure that the planet continues to remain green and healthy, it is essential for us to keep up the good work and continue to make efforts to conserve the environment.

While planting new trees is a great way to reduce the effects of deforestation, it’s important to note that these new trees are not a perfect replacement for the world’s primary forests. Primary forests are more diverse and provide more benefits than tree plantations. They are home to unique species and are important for regulating climate and sequestering carbon. Plantations, on the other hand, are typically monocultures, meaning they consist of only one species of tree, making them less resilient and beneficial to the environment.

12. It has been estimated that globally, the total area of forest is approximately 4.06 billion hectares. That’s equivalent to around 5,000 m2 (or 50 x 100 m) per person. Forests are not evenly spread across the globe. In fact, more than half of the world’s forests are concentrated in just five countries: the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America, and China. A staggering two-thirds (66%) of the world’s forests are found in just ten countries.

13. Over the last three decades, the world has seen a dramatic decrease in primary forest cover. The most significant losses have occurred in tropical and savannah regions, where deforestation is rampant. This poses a huge threat to biodiversity, as these are old-growth forests that provide a unique ecosystem for many species of plants and animals. Without these forests, irreparable damage will be done to the natural environment, and global species extinction could become even more of a reality. Therefore, governments and businesses must take action to protect primary forests and help restore the natural environment so that future generations may continue to benefit from this precious asset.

14. Agricultural expansion is a driving factor behind deforestation, forest degradation, and the resulting loss of forest biodiversity. Between 2000 and 2010, large-scale commercial agricultural operations such as cattle ranching and the cultivation of soybean and oil palm accounted for 40% of tropical deforestation, while local subsistence agriculture accounted for another 33%.

15. An estimated 10 million hectares were lost to deforestation between 2015 and 2020. Although it is encouraging to see that the rate of deforestation today is much lower than it was in the 1990s, it is still occurring at an alarming rate. The effects of climate change are becoming more evident each day, and it is essential that we take action to prevent further destruction of our forests. If we do not take active steps to protect our forests, we will see a rapid decline in biodiversity and a rise in global temperatures. We must stop deforestation and focus on replanting trees to ensure the survival of our planet.

16. Over 60,000 species of trees inhabit our planet. The large majority of these species are known as angiosperms which have enclosed seeds and broad leaves that die and fall off every Autumn after a gorgeous show of color. Some various types include maples, oaks, and birch trees. These are all deciduous trees. Conifers, otherwise known as evergreens, are gymnosperm trees, those with unenclosed seeds, such as Pine, Fir, and Cedar.  

17. Almost half of the world’s tree species are members of only ten families. These families include Leguminosae, Myrtaceae, Sapotaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Melasomataceae, Malvaceae, Lauraceae, Annonaceae, Arecaceae, and Rubiaceae.

18. Nearly 58% of all species of tree are endemic to single countries. This means that they only live in one area. Endemic tree species are especially prone to extinction if their habitats are destroyed by deforestation. If these habitats are not preserved, these species are at risk of becoming extinct due to the lack of resources and space for them to thrive.

19. Between 425 and 600 million years ago, the lands of the Earth were colonized by plants. This eventual spread of forests helped to give us a breathable atmosphere. 

20. Over 1.6 billion of the world’s population rely on forest resources for sustenance and their livelihoods. Of that, approximately 1.2 billion people utilize trees on farms to make food and money. 

21. It is estimated that around 880 million people collect wood for fuel or work in charcoal production. Many in the developing world rely on fuelwood to meet the majority (90%) of their energy needs. This, of course, helps contribute to deforestation, which is why it’s crucial to include these local communities in projects focused on reforestation. 

22. An estimated 28% of the world’s land is managed and maintained by indigenous peoples. These areas have lots of biodiversity within and contain some of our most intact forests from an ecological standpoint. 

23. 18% of the world’s forests, covering over 700 million hectares, are located within legally protected areas like national parks, conservation areas, and game reserves globally. Recently a study was conducted. It found that people like to visit these areas a lot. Up to 8 billion visits a year, which is greater than our planet’s total population. 

24. South America has the highest proportion of forest in protected areas at 31%, while Europe has the lowest at 5%. This is largely due to Europe’s history of extensive settlement and consequent activities like logging and intensive agriculture, as well as its smaller total land area.

25. Tropical deforestation now produces more emissions annually than 85 million cars would throughout their lifetime. If considered a country, it would rank third in CO2-equivalent emissions, surpassed only by China and the United States. Deforestation in tropical forests makes them net emitters of carbon.

26. The Amazon produces 20% of the oxygen generated on land through photosynthesis, while phytoplankton alone produce 70% of the world’s oxygen. This highlights why the Amazon may be better referred to as the Earth’s air conditioner instead of its lungs.

27. Forests currently absorb 30% of all CO2 emissions. This carbon is mainly stored in forest soils, supported by complex systems of roots, fungi, and microbes. This makes forests carbon sinks, as they take in more carbon than they release.

Want to learn more about the trees surrounding your home? Contact us here at Earthworks Tree Services, and our certified arborists will happily answer any questions you may have.

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