As native forests vanish at alarming rates but the importance of their services, they perform for us gains more recognition, planting trees has emerged as an iconic and highly impactful practice. Are you ready to find out the most amazing reasons why we should plant trees?
Trees are a part of our natural environment. They are used to build the very buildings that we live in, and we even write with, eat food from, sit on, and read from products that are made from them.
The significance of trees in our lives is beautifully depicted by our need to create protected areas where they can be admired. There are several tourist locations and traditions around the world that celebrate trees and their perceived powers on our wellbeing. These places often hold spiritual significance and cultural importance for communities surrounding them.
For example, you may have heard that in Japan, the practice of “Shinrin-Yoku” or forest bathing has gained popularity. It involves spending time relaxing in a forest, whilst trying to be present and perceive with all the senses the surrounding environment. This therapeutic practice is believed to reduce stress and boost overall wellbeing.
The banyan tree holds cultural and religious significance in India. Many believe that sitting or meditating under a banyan tree can bring about spiritual enlightenment and healing. Some banyan trees in India are considered sacred and are revered as a symbol of divine protection.
In Celtic traditions, certain trees are associated with each month of the year, forming the Celtic Tree Calendar. These trees are believed to possess unique healing properties and spiritual attributes during the given season.
As you can see, trees often represent the most sacred values of life. And because trees are so important, there are many reasons why we should plant more of them. Ready to learn more?
20 Reasons why do we need to plant trees in our environment?
Standing tall and strong in the landscape, well-rooted in the ground, with branches swinging in the wind, trees are one of the most stabilizing elements in the landscape. Wildlife and people have instinctively been drawn to trees for safety in times of discomfort and it has always worked in our favor…
#1 Trees hold soil in place & prevent erosion
Trees are a powerful tool in controlling soil erosion. They are one of the best natural defenses against land degradation processes. When we plant vegetation with deep roots, especially in vulnerable areas like riverbanks, hillsides, and streams, the soil becomes more stable and less susceptible to be misplaced.
According to data from Iowa State University, permanent vegetation cover, particularly native plants with deep roots like trees or shrubs, can reduce soil loss by over 50 percent (and even up to 100 percent in some cases) and surface runoff by an average of 30 percent.
Trees help to stabilize soils also by absorbing excess moisture with their roots and releasing it into the atmosphere through their leaves. This mechanism reduces oversaturation of soils with water during heavy rain periods, and helps to prevent flooding and nutrient loss.
Willow trees, for instance, are an excellent choice for erosion control. They grow rapidly, and their robust root system creates a strong binding network beneath the soil. Willows thrive in humid conditions and can even tolerate soils with higher salt concentrations. Moreover, they are known for their phytoremediation abilities, removing pollutants from soils and incorporating them into their biomass, contributing to a healthier environment when planted in the right location.
Additionally, the tree canopy acts as a windbreaker. Branches and leaves slow down the wind gusts and reduce the impact of wind on the soil. You can easily see the difference. In places where the soil is barren, a blow of wind easily rises lot of dust particles in the air, weathering away the upper soil layer.
A layer of leaves or needles, and other organic material on the ground fallen from trees acts as a natural mulch. Natural mulch protects upper soil layers from the direct impact of raindrops, which would dislodge soil particles and further cause erosion. Fallen tree leaves have one additional function. They gradually decompose and contribute to the formation of humus, which enriches soils and makes them healthy and fertile.
#2 Trees clean the soil pollutants
Trees have the ability to absorb pollutants from deeper soil layers and immobilize them in their woody parts. Through their roots creating a rich network that can reach as low as water table, trees prevent groundwater pollution from nutrient leaching and effectively remove soil contaminants. This includes agricultural pesticides and their degradation products as well as heavy metals (e.g. cadmium, lead, mercury), but also persistent organic pollutants.
According to the latest measurements, the capacity of trees to capture pesticide residues from soils varies between 40 to 100 percent. The range is fairly broad because it is affected by the tree type, soil characteristics and environmental conditions.
Trees like poplars and willows are generally known for being very efficient in pesticide uptake. That is why you can see willows planted along streamsides or on the lakeshores as protective buffers between water and agricultural land.
#3 Trees help to slow stormwater runoff
Trees do so much for water. Their role in water management in the natural and cultural landscapes is irreplaceable. By improving soil structure and increasing organic matter content in soils, trees promote water retention capacity of soils.
Their crowns shield larger areas of land from direct sunshine and decrease the evaporation. Soils then remain moist for longer periods of time, allowing neighboring plants to have better access to water from upper soil layers where their roots are.
One of the biggest water related problems in the modern landscape is runoff. Runoff mainly occurs on damaged lands that are stripped of vegetation, like paved surfaces, or surfaces that are eroding away, which includes even many agricultural lands. On these lands, 10 to 30 percent of rainwater is instantly lost by running off the surface and flowing into the nearest water bodies, along with soil nutrients, it has picked up along the way.
The result are soils devoid of nutrients that get dry too soon after the rain, forming a crust on the top. Surface runoff only increases the long-term impacts of drought and loss of biodiversity because less and less plants can survive in such conditions.
Tree roots and organic debris on the ground slow down runoff and hold back soil particles. This provides time for nutrients to get gradually used up by vegetation or get transformed by soil microbes into soil enriching products rather than immediately changing chemistry of water bodies.
#4 Trees recycle nutrients
Trees have a great capacity of maintaining soil fertility by building up organic matter and mediating nutrient cycling. Deeper and strong root systems of trees reach nutrients from deeper soil layers that would be unavailable to other plants. Trees incorporate these nutrients into their leaves. Nutrients “locked” in leaves are released during the process of decomposition after leaves have fallen on the ground. This enriches the upper soil layer and makes nutrients available to plants and crops growing in their vicinity.
Trees also release some nutrients through a process called leaching. When excess nutrients are taken up by the roots but not used immediately by the tree, they may be released back into the soil through rainwater, making them available for other plants or leaching into groundwater.
Did you know? Many trees form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, which attach to their roots. These fungi help the tree access nutrients from the soil in exchange for sugars produced by the tree through photosynthesis. This mutualistic relationship enhances nutrient uptake efficiency for both the tree and the fungi.
For example, tree species like Acacia, Alder or Black Locust, fixate atmospheric nitrogen into soil, making it available to crops that do not have this ability.
#5 Trees sequester carbon dioxide
As most of us learned in school, trees and other green plants take in carbon dioxide that humans and other organisms produce. Without trees, the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would be even higher than they are now.
Trees are extremely efficient at absorbing atmospheric carbon and utilizing it to form their bodies, but they also improve soil quality, making soils rich in organic matter and capable of storing higher amounts of carbon than degraded soils.
Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into biomass and oxygen.
Mature forests absorb and store enormous quantities carbon dioxide, within trees and small vegetation, as well in the form of decaying plant matter in the soil.
Forests in regions like the Congo and the Amazon represent some of the world’s largest natural reservoirs for greenhouse gases on land.
In fact, the Earth’s vegetation and soils consist of around 7,500 Gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 – that is more than double the amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
When forests are converted to agricultural land or logged on a massive scale, large quantities of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
#6 Trees produce oxygen
We often call tress the lungs of our planet because of their unique role in providing oxygen for us to breathe and improving the air quality.
Trees, more specifically native forests and rainforests, are estimated to generate roughly one third of the world’s oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. The remaining percentage comes from other sources, especially marine plankton.
Through photosynthesis, trees produce oxygen that humans and many other organisms depend on to live. During photosynthesis, trees use chlorophyll, a pigment found in their leaves, to capture sunlight. They combine carbon dioxide captured from the air with water absorbed through their roots to create glucose and oxygen.
According to the information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide from the air and produces four tons of oxygen. This is equivalent to the oxygen needs of 18 people for an entire year.
Tropical rainforests are considered the “lungs of the Earth” due to their significant oxygen production. They are responsible for a substantial portion of the world’s oxygen supply. Their continuous destruction could bear serious consequences for the health of the planet.
#7 Trees clean the air pollutants
Trees intercept air pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter.
Trees capture and trap particulate matter from the air. Particulate matter are very fine particles that get stirred in the air from different sources (industries, agriculture). Due to their small size, they can harm living organisms if the exposure is long term or severe. These particles can be for example a thin cement dust, carbon soot or magnesium-lime dust. In some areas with heavy industries, dust particles make up to 35 percent of air pollution suspended in the air.
The leaves and branches of trees act as a physical barrier, capturing these particles and preventing them from remaining in the air, where they can be inhaled and cause respiratory issues to local residents.
Trees absorb gaseous pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These pollutants often come from transport emissions and industrial processes. The pollutants are absorbed through the small pores on the leaf surface, called stomata, and are then metabolized or stored within the tree’s tissues.
#8 Some animals are dependent upon trees
Trees are an important element contributing to the biodiversity on Earth. They provide important habitat for wildlife and are fundamental to many ecosystems on Earth.
Some animals live their entire lives in trees, and some, such as the Northern Spotted Owl in Washington State in the United States, cannot survive without old growth forests. This means that in places where is any deforestation happening, these species cannot thrive and will gradually disappear.
The canopy of mature trees provides a safe habitat for various birds, insects, and mammals. Birds build nests in the branches, while insects use the leaves as feeding and breeding sites. Small mammals like squirrels and monkeys find refuge and food in the treetops. Some of them do not leave the trees for most of their lives.
Fallen leaves and branches create leaf litter on the forest floor, providing shelter and food. The soil beneath trees also hosts a diverse community of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, which play crucial roles in nutrient cycling and decomposition.
Hollows or cavities that form naturally in older trees serve as nesting sites and shelter for small wildlife. Trees also create corridors between different habitats, allowing animals to move and disperse through the landscape in safety from predators. Without this specific habitat, animals are in distress and exposed to many dangerous situations, one of them being even unwanted human-wildlife interaction.
Flowering trees also attract pollinators and play a role in supporting their activity and health.
#9 Trees make cities more livable
A vibrant urban forest is especially important for cities. A healthy urban forest is one of the more important factors in the establishment of livable cities, by bringing nature into an artificial and human-constructed city environment.
Children can learn about nature within the city environment just by being around trees and observing and interacting with them. A view of trees and green spaces from hospital windows has been found to increase the healing of patients, decrease our stress, and children do much better in school when they have a view of trees and green space and can spend time playing in nature.
Further reading: Why Is Environmental Education Important?
Even just a view of trees in cities can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve the overall well-being of an urban population. It has been found that having green spaces with trees in cities helps to reduce crime rates by approximately 50 percent .
Trees contribute to the visual appeal of cities, providing green spaces, lush landscapes, and seasonal changes that enhance urban aesthetics. These natural elements improve the overall ambiance and attractiveness of urban areas.
Trees act beneficially also as natural sound barriers, absorbing and diffusing urban noise pollution, making neighborhoods quieter and more pleasant for residents and visitors.
#10 Trees increase property value
It is well-known that when a home has mature trees growing on the property, it will sell for 7 to 19 percent more than if there were no trees planted there . For example, a study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service found that trees can add an average of $8,870 to a home’s sale price in certain areas.
The presence of trees enhances the appeal of a property and offers various benefits that attract buyers and tenants. Trees add natural beauty and visual appeal to a property, making it more attractive to most of us.
But there are more reasons why perhaps somehow instinctively, we prefer to live close to beautifully grown trees. They provide shade and reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer. Strategically placed trees can result in energy savings of up to 30% for cooling costs.
What’s more, trees act as natural screens. They create a sense of privacy, and their canopy reduces noise from neighboring properties or busy streets.
Trees create a positive first impression of a property and lead to increased curb appeal. Just think about it. Tree-lined streets and neighborhoods with green spaces are more preferred by most of us. They create a sense of community and contribute to the overall desirability of the location.
#11 Trees help to save energy
The presence of trees and other vegetation reduces air and surface temperatures through shade and evapotranspiration (the releasing of water vapor through a plant’s leaves). It has been found that temperatures in shaded areas can be as much as 20 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 25 degrees Celsius) cooler than temperatures in unshaded areas.
The shading of buildings by vegetation decreases the demand for energy used for air conditioning, reducing air pollution and producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions .
Trees release water vapor through a process called evapotranspiration, which cools the surrounding air. This process is similar to how sweating cools our bodies. The cooling effect from evapotranspiration further reduces energy consumption for cooling the air.
Trees planted in urban areas help mitigate the urban heat island effect, where cities are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to human activities and heat-absorbing surfaces. By cooling the environment, trees reduce the demand for other means of cooling down the heated streets in cities.
Additionally, tree canopy absorbs solar radiation instead of reflecting it like hard surfaces of urban buildings and streets do.
#12 Trees create a sense of place
Trees can give a place unique character and beauty that can only be found in that specific place. Trees are iconic elements that define the landscape of a place. Different tree species, such as palm trees in tropical regions or oak trees in temperate climates, contribute to the unique visual identity of a location.
Trees with cultural or historical importance become symbols of the place’s heritage. They may be associated with local traditions, legends, or historical events, fostering a sense of continuity and rootedness in the community.
Trees display distinct seasonal changes, such as colorful autumn foliage or blooming in spring. These natural cycles become familiar and evoke a sense of time passing, making the place feel dynamic and alive.
Trees provide a sense of scale and verticality to landscapes, especially in urban areas where tall trees contrast with buildings. They offer a feeling of openness and natural space, even in dense urban environments.
Iconic trees or tree-lined avenues can serve as landmarks for navigation, helping people orient themselves in an area and creating a strong sense of place identity. Humans have a biophilic connection to nature, and trees evoke feelings of comfort and tranquility. Being surrounded by trees fosters a deeper emotional bond with the location.
Trees often become a backdrop for personal memories and experiences. People associate certain trees or tree-filled areas with moments from their lives, leading to a personal attachment and emotional connection to the place.
If you are interested in exploring this topic a bit more, have a look at our article: “A Forest Without Trees.” The article goes into detail about the effects of the tree loss on the quality of our lives.
#13 Trees feed us
You can grow your own fruit or nuts in your backyard. By planting fruit or nut trees in your yard, you can produce abundant food for yourself and your family, and perhaps even enough to share with friends, neighbors, other family members, and others in your community.
Trees bear fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, mangoes, and many more. These fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, providing essential nutrients for a healthy diet. Almonds, walnuts, cashews and other nuts that are nutritious and a good source of healthy fats, proteins, and minerals, also grow on trees. And there is more.
Coffee beans and cocoa are enjoyed globally by many of us and also originate from trees.
Some trees, like pine trees, produce edible seeds or pine nuts that are used in various cuisines. Other trees produce edible flowers – examples are elderflower and acacia flowers, which are used in culinary preparations, including salads and desserts.
Maple trees provide sap that is tapped to produce maple syrup, a natural sweetener used in various dishes and recipes. Cinnamon trees produce bark that is harvested and used as a popular spice, adding flavor to a wide range of dishes. Similarly, olive trees and coconut palms produce fruits with oil-rich seeds, providing edible oils widely used in cooking.
#14 Trees are an investment for our communities and for future generations
When we plant trees, we are giving a gift to the environment and to our communities. Trees are long-lived organisms, and investing in tree planting and conservation is a way to leave a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy the benefits of a greener and more sustainable world.
Since many species of trees can live for hundreds of years or more, our “investment” tree planting may perhaps last far beyond our own lifetimes.
Trees play a crucial role in mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Their presence helps combat air pollution, improve water quality, and promote overall environmental health for decades of time.
Trees also enhance our resilience to climate change by providing shade and cooling. They reduce the urban heat island effect and decrease our vulnerability to losses during extreme weather events.
Further reading: 10 Oldest Trees in the World
#15 Trees help to maintain local water cycles
Trees play a very important role in maintenance of local water cycles. Trees hold water, prevent flooding, recharge underground aquifers, and maintain water vapor in the atmosphere, increasing the opportunity for rainfall.
When forests are cut down, the water vapor in the atmosphere disappears in an area, decreasing precipitation and increasing the risk of drought and desertification. By planting trees, some of these negative effects may be reversed.
Tree roots absorb water from the soil, reducing surface runoff and helping to recharge groundwater aquifers. In fact, a mature tree can absorb hundreds of gallons of water from the soil each day. Trees also release water vapor through their leaves in a process called transpiration. This release of water into the atmosphere contributes to the formation of clouds and precipitation, which is a crucial part of the water cycle.
What you may not know is that tree canopies intercept rainfall, and the leaves capture pollutants and sediment present in stormwater runoff. This natural filtering process helps improve water quality and reduces the impact of urban runoff on local water systems.
Trees help control flooding by reducing the speed and volume of stormwater runoff. They act as natural buffers, slowing down the flow of water during heavy rainfall and helping to prevent flash floods. Trees contribute to the replenishment of groundwater by allowing rainwater to percolate into the soil instead of immediately running off. This helps recharge underground water reservoirs, maintaining the local water supply.
In mountainous regions, forests play a critical role in preserving snowpack. Trees provide shade and act as windbreaks, reducing snowmelt and extending the release of water downstream, contributing to water availability during drier months.
Just one mature tree can store up to 40,000 gallons (150,000 liters) of water in its canopy and root system throughout the year .
In the Amazon rainforest, trees play a crucial role in maintaining regional rainfall patterns through the process of transpiration, contributing to the “flying rivers” phenomenon, where moisture from the forest is transported by winds and influences rainfall in other regions.
#16 Trees help to buffer storms
Trees help to reduce windy conditions during storms. They act as windbreakers on the land, protecting other vegetation – even crops, but also buildings and human structures. The dense canopy of trees provides additional protection by slowing down raindrops and reducing the impact of heavy rainfall on the ground, which can help prevent soil erosion and flooding. But trees play also a protective role in coastal areas.
During storms, strong winds and low atmospheric pressure can push seawater toward the shore, causing a storm surge. Mangrove trees act as a natural barrier that slows down and absorbs the force of incoming waves.
Mangroves have an extensive root system that stabilizes the soil. Their roots trap sediment and organic matter, gradually building up the shoreline and protecting it from erosion caused by waves. In addition to reducing storm surge height, mangroves act as a buffer against coastal flooding. Their dense root systems and vegetation slow down floodwaters, providing a natural defense against inundation.
Trees along riverbanks and floodplains slow down floodwaters and reduce the velocity of flowing water. This helps control flooding, protecting downstream areas from the rapid and destructive flow of water.
#17 Trees produce products for our use
Trees produce many important products that we use in our daily lives, including wood, medicine, and food.
For example, the Moringa tree is considered to be a superfood and super herb, with all parts of the tree being useful for food or medicine, and the seeds are even used in some developing countries for water purificationa.
Other useful products from trees include cinnamon made from the bark of the Cinnamon Tree, using Willow bark as a form of natural aspirin, and using the technique of coppicing trees to obtain woody materials without killing the trees.
Everyone knows that trees are a source of timber and wood, extremely important materials that accompany us on our daily errands in the form of paper, or wooden furniture. Many trees bear edible fruits and nuts, providing a significant portion of our food supply. Examples include fruits like apples, pears, oranges, lemons, and almonds, coconuts.
Did you know that natural rubber comes from a special kind of tree found South East Asia and Africa. Rubber trees produce a milky fluid called latex. The latex is collected in pails and then the water is removed from it so that it can be turned into raw rubber. Other trees produce gum and resins used in the production of adhesives and pharmaceuticals.
Cork oak trees provide cork. Trees like oak and chestnut contain tannins, which are used in tanning leather and producing ink and dyes. Trees such as hemp and flax produce fibers that can be used to make textiles, rope, and paper.
#18 Trees are visually beautiful
Planting trees is a great way to add a touch of beautiful nature to your property and improve the aesthetics of a place. Knowing all their benefits to our wellbeing, it’s no wonder we are perhaps instinctively programmed to admire trees and seek refuge under their calming canopy.
Trees come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from tall and majestic conifers to graceful weeping willows and compact ornamental trees. Each species has its unique growth patterns, adding diversity to the visual landscape.
Trees also display captivating seasonal changes throughout the year. From the fresh green leaves of spring to the vibrant hues of autumn foliage, the visual transformation of trees with the changing seasons is a true delight.
Many trees produce stunning flowers and blossoms, creating breathtaking displays of colors and scents. Cherry blossoms, magnolia flowers, and jacaranda blooms are just a few examples of trees with eye-catching flowers.
Trees in urban environments bring nature into cities, providing refreshing green spaces that contrast with the surrounding built environment. Certain individual trees, like ancient and giant sequoias or iconic trees like the baobabs, become famous landmarks and tourist attractions, admired for their grandeur and beauty.
#19 Trees help control noise
Trees help to curb loud noises in the air. Trees absorb and dampen sound waves, reducing the intensity of noise in their vicinity. According to research conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, a dense tree belt can reduce noise by 5 to 10 decibels, which is equivalent to cutting perceived noise levels in half.
When planted strategically around a property, trees can even help to reduce loud urban noises from freeways and airports. Studies have shown that well-planted tree barriers can reduce noise levels by up to 10 decibels.
The leafy canopies of trees act as sound-absorbing surfaces, helping to muffle and disperse noise. Trees with dense foliage are particularly effective at reducing high-frequency sounds.
The rustling of leaves and gentle swaying of tree branches can produce soothing “white noise,” which helps mask and alleviate background noise, creating a more pleasant acoustic environment.
Studies have shown that the presence of trees around schools contributes to improved acoustic conditions, leading to better learning environments for students.
#20 Trees have potential to prevent and stop wildfires
In some situations, trees could play a crucial role in wildfire prevention and mitigating the spread of wildfires. This happens when the forests are managed in a proper way. Proper forest management includes controlled burns, thinning, and frequent removal of deadwood. These techniques reduce the amount of fuel available for wildfires to ignite and spread.
Additionally, trees can be strategically used as firebreaks to create natural barriers that slow down or stop the spread of wildfires. Trees around homes and structures could create a buffer zone that reduces the risk of fire reaching buildings. Properly spaced and pruned trees decrease the likelihood of fire spreading to structures.
Trees help regulate local moisture levels by releasing water through transpiration. Healthy trees contribute to a more humid microclimate, reducing the dryness that can fuel wildfires.
Planting fire-resistant tree species and creating greenbelts with well-maintained vegetation can help create a fire-resistant landscape, especially in urban-wildland interface areas.
In some ecosystems with certain types of forests, periodic natural fires are part of the natural cycle. In these areas, fire management practices should focus on controlled or prescribed burns to mimic natural fire regimes and maintain ecosystem health to prevent out of control wildfire outbreaks.