Think about this: if a simple tree image (yes, just an image) can make us happier, imagine what a real forest can do.
There is little else on Earth that holds as much power as trees. From maple trees to antarctic beech trees - they are all majestic and able to amplify any environment they are in. Many mystical trees stand like sentinels, spreading beauty for decades, or even centuries.
These gentle giants have been our neighbors for as long as we can remember, but… How much do we really know about them? Trees provide so much more than a variety of healthy foods, or wood that we recognize as part of our everyday lives. In a world that is spending too much time looking down, not many of us are looking up and noticing their impressive worth. Because trees are so important, here are 20 mind-blowing reasons why we should be planting more of them:
1. Trees help us feel less stressed
It’s a scientific fact: research, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health proved that nature exposure helps decrease our stress and anxiety. In all 585 cases, the participants walking in a forest experienced less anxiety, hostility, fatigue, confusion, and depressive symptoms. The results were even stronger for people who were more anxious to begin with.
We all know that life can be very demanding. Nowadays, there’s actually a growing interest in the practice of “forest bathing”. It began in Japan, where there’s much more awareness about the nature deficit we are experiencing. It involves slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, while enjoying the therapeutic effects and health benefits that come from it.
2. Trees can reduce the risk of dementia
According to a report from the United Nations, neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis (MS) affect more than 1 billion people worldwide.
These are all disorders with no cure whatsoever, but new research, published in the journal of Environmental Health, has found that living near green spaces can lower the risk of developing certain neurological conditions.
According to researchers that studied more than 670,000 adults, living near major highways led to a 14% increase in non-Alzheimer's dementia and Parkinson's disease, while living near green spaces lowered the risk of those same two disorders.
3. Trees in neighborhoods lead to less crime
A new study from Baltimore finds that city trees reduce crime. Researchers used aggregated crime data from Spotcrime and overlaid it with high-res satellite imagery to conduct probably the largest analysis of its kind to date.
According to this study, a 10 percent increase in trees roughly equaled a 12 percent decrease in crime. They state that tree planting prioritization should incorporate public safety concerns.
Adding to that, there’s also research of residential neighborhoods proving that property crimes were less frequent when there were trees in the right-of-way and more abundant vegetation around a house.
4. Trees may make us more generous
As surprising as it may seem, many studies involving trees suggest that nature experiences help us feel kinder toward others.
Research published in the journal of Personality and Social Psychology proved that naturalistic induction of awe (participants stood in a grove of towering trees) can result in a diminishment of the individual self and its concerns, and greater generosity.
Another study found that people were more willing to help someone who’d lost a glove if they had just spent time walking through a park with trees, rather than if they were near the entrance to the park.
The fact is that these studies don’t know the exact role trees play in promoting kind and helpful behavior, because they don’t specify the benefits of trees versus green space in general. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance that trees’ presence contributes to better social interactions.
5. Trees are beneficial to mental health
Along with many other benefits of planting trees, we can add a mental health boost to the list.
According to new research published in the journal Nature, a team of European researchers found that the more trees that lined the streets of a neighborhood, the fewer antidepressants were prescribed to its inhabitants. They analyzed the association of street tree density with antidepressant prescribing for nearly 10,000 residents of Leipzig, Germany. Those who had more trees within a 100-meter radius of their homes were less likely to be prescribed an antidepressant.
This study further supports the idea that planting trees and increasing the number of green spaces improves public health.
6. Trees regulate the water cycle
The availability of water for all living organisms and for the regulation of weather patterns is dependent on the water cycle. And did you know that trees provide water cycle management? Yes, 75% of the world’s freshwater supply is generated by forests that guide water into rivers, lakes, and the groundwater table, while promoting the formation of clouds.
Simply put: water that falls to the ground as rain, it’s then absorbed by trees and other plants, and then released back into the air as transpiration. It’s estimated a single tree typically releases around 250-400 gallons of water back into the air every single day.
Deforestation disrupts this cycle and puts our freshwater sources at risk. Without trees, the interior parts of continents would become deserts, such as in Australia and Africa where deforestation has led to minimal rainfall. Let’s prevent this from happening by planting trees.
7. Trees help students learn better
It really is true - the simple view of trees outside a classroom window help students retain information better and recover from stress quicker.
An interesting new study of high school students in central Illinois found that students with a view of trees were able to recover their ability to pay attention and bounce back from stress more rapidly than those who looked out on a parking lot or had no windows.
8. Trees are a vital habitat for wildlife
Even though we all know why forests are important for wildlife, we sometimes don’t realize the true extent of it.
About 80% of the world’s documented land-based species can be found in forests. Have you considered what happens when they lose their home? They become more accessible to hunters and poachers, their numbers begin to dwindle and some eventually go extinct.
Many climate scientists argue that if we want a shot at combating the climate crises, we’ll need to cut down fewer trees to begin with. Adding to that tree planting and forest restoration are essential. The young trees offer habitation and food to amazing communities of birds, insects, lichen, and fungi. The ancient ones provide the hollow cover needed by species such as bats, tawny owls, and woodpeckers. Each tree works as a safe haven for many animals in its own way.
9. Trees benefit our immune system
Different studies have shown that exposure to forests boosts our immune system.
According to some research, while we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. By breathing in these chemicals, our bodies increase the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK - cells that kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.
Even five minutes around trees or in green spaces may improve our health, so what are we waiting for to plant more trees?
10. Trees increase happiness
Trees are beautiful, improve our health, and can even increase happiness? Yes, they can.
The New York Times article entitled “Greenery (or even photos of trees) can make us happier” explores this subject.
A study published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health focused on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Participants of the study were given pictures of either trees and green places or pictures of urban spaces full of buildings and parked cars. What happened was that when participants saw pictures of greenery their parasympathetic system kicked in, lowering heart rates, experiencing feelings of relief and happiness.
According to the person who led the study, if short durations of viewing green pictures helped people to recover from stress, the results would be magnified if people could visit nature in person.
11. Trees prevent soil erosion
Tree roots perform a vital function in holding the soil together, which means in deforested areas, there is nothing to keep the soil in place. That’s when erosion can occur and the loose soil is then free to be swept away by high winds or rain into rivers and such - the region is turned into a semi-desert.
According to an article in The Guardian, erosion is occurring at a pace of up to 100 times greater than the rate of soil formation, and it takes around 500 years for just 2.5cm of topsoil to be created.
Planting trees can prevent soil erosion, because they will shield the Earth from harsh rain showers before it reaches the ground and their strong roots will grip tightly to the many layers of the Earth’s surface, keeping it all in place.
12. Trees combat noise pollution
Did you know that urbanization, transport, and industrialization noise can have a devastating effect on wildlife? According to an article in The Guardian, scientists are revealing that noise pollution rules should be tightened to protect wildlife.
Not only can the noise pollution caused by humans interfere with an animal’s sonar and navigation systems, but it can also disrupt whole ecosystems. For example, bats try to locate their prey via acoustic cues, and with all the noise caused by humans, they can’t hear that, so they have to fly longer and invest more time and energy to find their food.
Trees that are planted at strategic points can abate major noises. Since their foliage has a muffling effect, diminishing the level of sound that reaches it, why aren’t we planting more trees?
13. Trees enhance property value
Numerous studies prove that properties with mature trees and beautiful landscaping attract buyers and shoppers, which leads to increased property values.
According to an online posting by the Arbor Day Foundation, a mature tree can hold an appraised value of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
Depending on the location, size, and the number of trees, property prices can potentially increase by 15%. Also, homes near naturalistic parks are usually worth 8 to 20 percent more than comparable properties.
14. Trees fight climate change
Scientists say that mass tree planting helps with the struggle against climate change. According to the “Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis” article in The Guardian, planting billions of trees across the world is one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere to tackle the climate crisis.
As trees grow and perform photosynthesis, they’re taking carbon out of the atmosphere. They absorb and store the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are driving global heating.
Let’s take the fight against climate change into - literally - our own hands. It’s time to plant more trees and protect them.
15. Trees create oxygen
Have you heard that the Amazon rainforest is the green lung of our planet? There’s definitely truth in this saying.
As previously stated, trees remove CO2 from the air, but that’s not only it. They also produce oxygen. In fact, photosynthesis is the largest creator of oxygen. So shouldn’t we be taking better care of our trees?
16. Trees improve our air quality
In addition to creating oxygen, trees also remove pollutants from the air that could otherwise contribute to health problems.
Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases, such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone, and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
They are actually saving more than 850 human lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms, according to the US Forest Service report.
17. Trees have a traffic calming effect
Tree-lined streets provide more than a lovely view. Field studies have confirmed that when trees are present along streets, there is a change in motorists’ behavior with a traffic calming effect.
The mere presence of trees signals to motorists that they are approaching a populated area, triggering them to check their speed and if needed, slow down. According to a study in Germany, tree-lined streets may also alter the drivers’ perception of the lane width and therefore make them reduce driving speeds by way of a psychological effect, known as the “edge effect”.
18. Trees cool the streets and the city
We all appreciate the shade of a single tree relief from the hot summer sun. But when that single tree is part of a forest, it creates a profound cooling effect.
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, trees play a big role in keeping our towns and cities cool. The right amount of tree cover can lower summer daytime temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (12.2°C).
With climate change making extreme heat events more frequent each summer, planting trees is coming as a great solution.
19. Trees conserve energy
When strategically placed, trees can be as effective as other energy-saving home improvements, such as insulation and the installation of weather-tight windows and doors. Interestingly enough, trees help reduce your heating and cooling costs.
Trees save energy through cooling in the hotter months and provide a windbreak during winter. This results in burning fewer fossil fuels to generate electricity for cooling and heating.
There are studies saying that a minimum of three large trees around your home – can reduce air conditioning costs up to 30 percent. They will provide shade and block heat during hotter months and, by dropping their leaves in the fall, they admit sunlight in the colder months.
20. Trees bring people together
Trees bring people together in many ways.
By reducing chronic stress linked to urban living, trees might be leading to more healthy social interactions between people. There’s even a study that found that residents of buildings with more greenery surrounding them had more frequent interactions with their neighbors and a stronger sense of community.
Adding to that, tree planting provides an opportunity for community involvement that improves the quality of life in neighborhoods. All cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play at a tree planting or tree care event. Plus, trees as landmarks can give a neighborhood a new identity and encourage civic pride - this way they end up promoting unity. On second thought, what do they not promote and provide?
In order to receive love, we must give love. So, what can we do to give back? Planting more trees and taking care of them seems like an amazing way to do so.
Becoming carbon-neutral is not easy, but with teamwork and collaboration, we can achieve anything.
“He who plants a tree plants a hope”, said Lucy Larcom in one of her poems. If you are looking to do so - to make a difference in the world - a great way to do that is to support ethical and sustainable brands that make a positive impact, like those who plant trees when you make a purchase. Imagine how many beautiful trees we can plant together. Becoming carbon-neutral is not easy, but with teamwork and collaboration, we can achieve anything. Join Wonther on this journey… the planet says thank you :)