The value that trees play in the wellbeing of the environment cannot be underestimated. These two entities are closely linked by a symbiotic relationship - what benefits one also benefits the other; conversely, what harms one also harms the other. Understanding this relationship between trees and the environment is crucial towards formulating a conservation plan to prevent further deforestation and degradation of the environment.
The urgency of these issues is actually staggering on a global scale; the increasing rate of deforestation in many countries is bringing the issue of trees and the environment front-and-center. Current estimates put worldwide deforestation rates at 13 million hectares per year, certainly not a rate that naturally growing forests can match. South America is seeing the largest rate of forest loss per year at 4.3 million hectares followed closely by Africa at 4.0 million hectares. Nigeria alone is losing 11 percent of its forest cover annually; if that number holds up, Nigeria won't be having any forest whatsoever as early as 2015.
These excessive deforestation rates are causing massive environmental impacts that threaten human existence. These impacts are highlighting the important relationship between trees and the environment.
Foremost is the issue of flooding and landslides. Trees retain water and replenish the water table; without trees, water easily goes down the steep slopes of mountains resulting to extensive flooding and landslides. As cities grow and communities develop along mountainsides and low-lying valleys, flooding and landslides become a very pressing threat. These issues were evident in the last few years when multiple incidences of large scale flooding and landslides in China, Pakistan, Southeast Asia and Africa are highlighting the benefits of trees and firmly establishing the value of trees and the environment in the public's consciousness.
A related issue is the drastic reduction in potable water supply for many countries around the world. We normally get our water supply from the water table which lies a few meters below the surface. The roots of trees actually collect rainwater and direct them to the water table. Without trees, water is now barreling down the slopes as an agent of destruction instead of providing soothing relief as a valuable natural resource in the form of drinking water.
Still, the biggest connecting thread for trees and the environment has to be the ability of trees to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When plants synthesize their own food in a process known as photosynthesis, they use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is estimated that a healthy, mature tree extracts up to 50 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air. With the increasing rate of deforestation, we are losing a valuable asset that could help in the fight against global warming. Without trees, carbon dioxide levels can continue to rise driving surface temperatures with it, eventually melting the icecaps to cause flooding, worsening weather conditions, prolonged droughts, the rapid depletion of valuable resources and a collapse in local economies.
All these effects underscore the importance of trees and the environment and why both must be keenly preserved and protected from further degradation. Without trees, the environment wouldn't be the same; once the environment changes, normal living conditions would also cease to exist.
Consider supporting local drives to plant more trees and prevent unregulated logging. Those baby steps might be the only way standing between us and a future of uncertainty in a world devoid of trees.