Why You Should Plant More Trees
April 11, 2022 | #MyCarbonCyclePledge
By Dr. Mark A. Miller, Education Director
Indigenous peoples have known intuitively for millennia that trees are beneficial to human health, well-being and quality of life. Trees provide food, shelter, oxygen, medicine, beauty and many other gifts. Modern science can validate those benefits through a vast number of scientific studies.
One of the gifts that trees provide is the sequestration of carbon, something that most humans didn’t recognize or give much thought to until climate change progressed to the level of an existential threat. That has changed. Scientists are now examining the essential role of trees in the carbon cycle and figuring out the best, most efficient ways in which they sequester carbon.
Trees are natural carbon sinks. As they grow, trees absorb carbon dioxide in the air and store it in leaves, branches, trunks and roots. On average, carbon makes up half of a tree’s dry weight. The larger the tree, the more carbon it is holding (or sequestering).
The world’s forests are actively being destroyed at an alarming rate. Trees not only lose their ability to store carbon when they die but they also release much of the carbon they were storing back into the atmosphere. Scientists are studying reforestation – planting trees where they once existed and were cut – and afforestation – planting trees in areas where they did not exist previously – to see which is most successful in differing environments. Letting degraded forests naturally regenerate over time is another successful and underappreciated restoration strategy according to The Nature Conservancy.
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden has been a leader in this effort, by planting over 14,000 trees in areas that were formerly mined and tending to other trees in our collections. Visitors are provided information about the importance of native trees in the landscape.
Whether through reforesting, afforesting or encouraging natural regeneration of forests, facilitating the sequestration of carbon by trees is one of the actions that humans must take in the fight against global warming and climate change. This process can start in our neighborhoods and public spaces. Simply plant a native tree, and help it get established. It will provide benefits to you and to the planet. Planting trees is something that almost everyone can do!
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden encourages you to take small steps toward reducing your personal carbon footprint. Read more about the carbon cycle, what the Garden is doing to reduce our carbon footprint, and take the #MyCarbonCyclePledge.