Imagine a world where you were unable to go outside and breathe fresh air or one in which you would fall victim to inclement weather or to the sun’s harmful UV rays, as there would be no natural canopy to provide protection from the elements. One would have to live in a self sustainable eco dome bubble in order to live and survive. This is what could possibly occur if there were no more trees left on the earth.
Trees play a vital role in human and animal survival. Trees help reduce erosion, remove harmful carbon dioxide from our atmosphere by storing it in their tissue, moderate our climate, provide a canopy for shade and shelter protection from the elements, provide habitat for countless animal species, bear fruit for consumption as well as fuel for cooking and eating, as well as provide material for construction and paper products production. These are only a few of an exhaustive list of the major functions and usages of trees. Trees have been around for billions of years, and because of their ability to adapt, and provide us with clean air in which to breathe, as well as their longevity of life, they have long been revered in various world mythologies as worthy of appreciation and protection.
According to a recent article in the Journal of Science however, the world’s oldest big trees are dying at an alarming rate. In fact, some experts suggest that they are dying off at ten times the normal rate even in non- fire years. So what is causing this massive die off? Some theorize it could be due to factors such as: increased drought, fire, deforestation, fragmentation, insects, climate change, weather modification, encroaching urbanization, as well evasive shrub, fungus or insect species. While others suggest, that large old trees due to their enormity are simply inflexible making them more prone to breakage or uprooting during times of high winds.
You may be thinking to yourself, that there are tons of trees in the forest so why would a few big old trees dying off really make a difference? After all, isn’t it the natural circle of life that the old die in order for the young to take their place? This may be the case with humans but trees are different. Although, big trees are said to comprise less than 2% of the trees within the earth’s forests, they do however comprise 25% of the entire biomass because of their ability to seed large areas. Animals such as owls, hawks raccoons, chipmunks and countless other animal species would argue also, that without these majestic giants, they would not have a home or healthy habitat in which to thrive. Not only do large trees contribute to biodiversity and provide habitat to countless animal species, they also capture the most energy from the sun making them huge producers of crops, fruit, flowers and foliage which helps sustain the wildlife in their regions.
As more and more big tree deaths are being reported across the globe, scientists and naturalists alike are taking notice, as they realize the gravity of the situation and what it would mean to have trees disappear from our planet forever. Much like in the animal kingdom, when an animal becomes extinct there are adverse consequences which are far reaching within the ecosystem. In the tree world, for life to prosper, there must be a variety of young, middle aged and old trees. Each tree has its purpose, and function no matter their age, and contributes to the overall health and biodiversity of the ecosystem.
Protection and management, reforestation, and educational initiative projects are surfacing around the world, to help stop the continued loss of our timber giants. What can you do to help? Get involved with existing projects to help identify these large trees for protection status in your communities. Volunteer to plant trees or simply help educate others as to the importance of trees big or small, to the sustainability of life here on earth. Remember, each tree planted means more fresh air to be breathed for not only you, but will help guarantee that your great grandchildren will live in a natural world and not a bio dome bubble.