Why Are We Passionate About Trees (and Why Should You Be)?
With some of the team about to jet off to California to share the Tentsile experience with tree enthusiasts in Sequoia National Park, we thought it was high time for a blog about just why it is that we love trees so much, and why the Tentsile ethos is 'if we're all hanging out in trees, people can't cut them down'.
Back in November, Alex explained why we tent in trees, making reference to the Tentsile team's passion for all things green and tall. Why are we passionate about trees, though - and why should you be? Here's a roundup of our reasons.
Trees have a huge impact on the quantity of water in any given area. Deep-rooted in the soil or other substrate in which they grow, trees stabilise land and help prevent soil erosion and flooding in times of heavy rain, storms or overflowing bodies of water. Not only this, but their presence helps the soil to act like a giant sponge, retaining water that is then slowly released over time, either gradually into rivers or by being taken up by plants.
Water quality is improved by trees, too. They filter out minerals and nutrients that would otherwise end up in rivers and lakes, with the dual benefit of keeping the minerals and nutrients safely stored, and preventing the growth of oxygen-depleting organisms that reduce water quality.
In their immediate locality, trees have an effect on humidity, temperature, light conditions and moisture availability - that's a long way of saying that trees make places just that bit more pleasant! On a global scale, the presence of forests regulates temperature as branches and leaves absorb sunlight. If the trees disappear, light is reflected, rather than absorbed, and this alters atmospheric circulation and rainfall patterns.
You probably remember learning in school that trees absorb carbon dioxide, and this is another key factor in their importance. When forests are chopped down, and especially if they are burned, huge amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming. This is why deforestation is now tipped as the biggest man-made contributor to climate change, even more so than transport. On the other hand, if they are left to do their job in peace, trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and if mass-scale reforestation were to take place, some of the damage of global warming could be slowed down.
It's no secret that forests are good for species diversity. Rainforests are home to more than half of the world's plant and animal species, despite covering less than 5% of the earth's surface. It's not just about the ecosystem of the forest as a whole, though; every tree, in temperate forests too, contains a teeming ecosystem of its own. From the roots to the tips of the leaves, each tree has tens, if not hundreds, of species relying on it - from bacteria, fungi and earthworms to caterpillars, which are eaten by small birds, which in turn are eaten by the birds of prey soaring overhead. Take away the tree, and you're not just taking away a tall piece of structured wood - you're taking away a whole world and its inhabitants.
We've already talked about water quality and the prevention of floods, but there are plenty of other things that trees do for people the world over. Agricultural systems that closely resemble natural forests suffer less soil erosion and are less environmentally damaging, enabling increased food production and all its knock-on effects on poverty and food security.
By preventing soil erosion and keeping sediment out of rivers, trees protect marine fisheries, coral reefs, river biodiversity and, as mentioned above, water quality. Trees also act as natural windbreaks, providing shelter for crops, settlements and and people themselves. In a beautifully neat cycle, windbreaks also reduce the rate of water lost by crops through evapotranspiration, meaning they need less water - the trees contribute, once again, to water availability.
Using trees as barriers can also protect crops from grazing animals, and provide carefully harvested fodder for domestic livestock. Fruiting trees, of course, also provide food for people, and agroforestry and tree nurseries provide employment and economic opportunities.
Apart from the more tangible benefits mentioned above, trees are good for us because we just need them. You'll have heard people talk about all the medicines - in use now and yet to be discovered - that we wouldn't have without trees and forests, and especially in recent years, a growing body of research has shown how good they are for our mental health too. One study even revealed that the positive effects of living in a city with green spaces sustain for far longer than the perhaps more obvious positive effects of a new house, pay rise or exciting job. Trees are also great for people in cities as well as people in rural areas because they filter out smog, provide shade and reduce the incidences of pollutant-related diseases.
We Love Trees
Apart from anything else, being under, in or around trees makes us feel great. That's why we're committed to making tents that can allow as many people as possible to commune closely with trees and grow to understand and love them. We want to keep trees around and see their numbers increase, so that everyone can enjoy green space and the benefits it brings. So, whether you're a die-hard arborist or making your first forays into tree-shaded picnics on summer days, take a moment to think about the trees, be thankful for everything they give us, and tell the people you know why it is that trees are important to you.
All photographs Andrew Walmsley/Tentsile.