In Praise of Trees

Tree Planting Diary 2009

In 1999 I wrote an article with the same title for a different publication.  This article listed food production, windbreaks and six other benefits that trees provide for us. It concluded: “Planting and nurturing a tree is a positive act in terms of humanity (as others will benefit from your act), the environment… and even in personal power. It is an act of love for the earth, nature, your fellows and yourself.” The article was primarily about planting and reafforestation though it did mention our native forests as “a thing of beauty”.

However it just made a single mention of perhaps the most important benefit – forests as a carbon store. Growing trees as a carbon sequestration is, as various memes in the twittersphere point out, the only form of carbon capture and storage that actually works. For some years whenever I found a massive tree I would measure its circumference and make a rule of thumb calculation as to how much carbon was stored in that particular tree. The calculation was done by measuring the tree circumference at shoulder height then applying this figure to a table to give a return of carbon in kilograms stored. For example a young hardwood tree with a circumference of one hand (28cm) indicated a carbon storage of 33 kilograms; a circumference of 4 hands (100cm) more than 1 ton of storage and a very large tree with a circumference of 3 arms widths (5m) stored about 90 tons of carbon. It is easy then to comprehend that mature ash forest store more than 1900 tons of carbon per hectare.

Shade from trees and their cooling effect is another aspect relevant to a warming climate. Using trees in towns to help mitigate warming is something I hope to look at soon. In the meantime various government departments appear to be doing their best to destroy and remove these precious assets. I have blogged on the need to cease the logging practices of this government which destroys large areas of these stores and produces prodigious amounts of greenhouse gases. This is done to protect a small number of jobs making clear fell logging doubly damaging to our climate. Other departments are clearing trees such as those along little travelled roads for flimsy reasons such as fire protection.

Trees should be protected and preserved to the best of our ability. Severe penalties should be applied for any illegal removal. No tree should be removed without a very important reason and for each tree felled by necessity one hundred should be planted in its place. Landowners should be compensated for forests protected on private property. Planting and protecting trees is the easiest cheapest thing you can do to at least partially offset your personal contribution of greenhouse gases. If you have any space plant now, nurture them, and replace those that die.