Tree day: Let’s protect the planet’s lungs

Trees play an essential role in the conservation of the environment. They are the lungs of planet Earth. To vindicate their importance, World Tree Day, also known as Tree Party, is celebrated on June 28.


Importance of trees for the environment


  • There are several reasons why trees and forests are essential to preserve the environment:
  • They release oxygen and transform carbon dioxide (CO2) into biomass, reducing the greenhouse effect.
  • They are regulators of hydrological cycles, thus helping to prevent flooding.
  • They prevent soil erosion, favoring the development of agriculture.
  • They constitute the habitat of different species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
  • In jungle areas, they contribute to form a humid environment.
  • They contribute to regulate the climate, reducing the effects of climate change generated mainly by the actions of mankind.
  • They are a source of raw material for the production of medicines, food, paper, fuel (wood and charcoal), fibers and other natural materials such as cork, resins and rubber.


How much CO2 does a forest absorb?


To know how much CO2 a forest absorbs we first have to analyze which trees compose it. A recent research carried out by the University of Seville highlighted the Aleppo pine as one of the trees that absorb the most CO2. It is estimated that a mature Aleppo pine can absorb up to 50 tons of CO2 per year.


In other words, a mature specimen of this species can absorb the emissions generated by 30 medium-sized automobiles traveling 10,000 kilometers per year.


Therefore, pine forests have great potential as natural carbon sinks.


Not-to-be-missed facts about trees and forests


  • According to a recent study (published by the Journal of Sustainable Forestry) there are 60,065 species of trees on our planet.
  • Depending on each species, trees are fully developed when they reach 40 or 50 years of age.
  • Globally, about 78% of primary forests have been destroyed by human actions and the remaining 22% have been affected by timber extraction.
  • Twelve percent of the world’s forests are designated for biodiversity conservation.
  • It is estimated that forests constitute a vital carbon reservoir, accumulating some 289 gigatons of carbon.
  • Forests occupy large tracts of land covering 28.5% of the world’s land area, with the exception of Antarctica and Greenland.
  • Half of the world’s forests are located in the tropics and the rest in temperate and boreal zones.
  • Europe and South America have the largest forest area, followed by North America and Africa.
  • Deforestation of forests and trees produces 15% of annual CO2 emissions worldwide, exceeding that generated by vehicles, ships and other means of transport.
  • For many cultures, some trees represent stories or have religious significance that make them special.


An ally in the face of climate change


Along with the oceans, protecting forests means conserving the most powerful method of absorbing CO2. There are estimates that a tree stores an average of 22 kilos of CO2 per year. Tropical rainforests retain 250 billion tons of carbon dioxide in trees alone, equivalent to 90 years of global emissions. European forests capture approximately 10% of the total greenhouse gases emitted by the European Union.


If we do not change our actions towards more environmentally friendly habits, this natural capacity of trees could be slowed down. Therefore, we need to find sustainable solutions that help us to balance forest restoration, slow deforestation and put an end to the illegal exploitation of forests.


By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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