Climate breakdown is putting all natural life on Earth at risk, for the most part, because we have neglected the natural world, in favor of industries such as animal agriculture. Although the science is clear, we still choose to ignore the natural world as part of the solution. Yet who could be better placed to stabilize the natural world, than nature itself, and trees, our wisest of natural companions, are a key part of the solution.
How Can Trees Fight Climate Breakdown?
In more ways than you might think!
Trees Sequester Carbon
Trees absorb the climate harming Co2 we release. In simple terms, the more trees we plant, particularly in previously deforested areas, the less carbon that enters our atmosphere and contributes to warming.
We need to start planting more trees now if we are going to have a positive impact, as sequestration can take around 10 years to begin after planting.
Trees Are Homes
Strong biodiversity is one of the cornerstones of protecting our natural environment and forest ecosystems are home to an estimated 80 percent of all animal and plant life, so are key to a happy climate. High rates of biodiversity – which just means plenty of thriving species – also stabilizes our natural environment which protects and preserves all natural life, including humans. When we cut down trees, we destroy the homes of millions of species and therefore put the balance of our natural environment, and in turn all animals and humans, at risk.
Rewilding land by planting more trees and allowing nature to take over, particularly in areas decimated by animal agriculture, encourages species to move back in which increases stability and resilience to climatic changes.
Trees Protect Us from Natural Disasters
Trees regulate the movement of water through our natural environment, which decreases the likelihood of flooding. They also create a barrier against soil erosion on land, and trees like mangroves protect coastal environments from tidal erosion and tsunamis. These are all processes and events that will become more common as a result of climate breakdown and will only make future impacts worse. Protecting forests, mangroves, and all other tree ecosystems, will decrease humans and animals vulnerability to climate change and contribute to a more climate stable future.
Forests Have Vital Cultural Benefits.
It might seem strange to suggest culture can help fight climate change, but the evidence is actually quite clear. Forests increase our nature-connectedness, improve our physical and mental wellbeing, and contribute to richer relationships between humans and the natural world.
All this means that humans with increased exposure to trees, are much more likely to protect the natural environment in the future.
5 Trees That Are Doing the Most To Fight Climate Breakdown
1. Live Oak
The live oak, which is an evergreen oak, is able to sequester the most carbon of all trees over its lifetime. This is partly due to its high leaf surface area, allowing it to photosynthesize at a much faster rate than other species.
The more live oaks we plant, particularly in areas of deforestation or high carbon emissions, the less carbon will enter our atmosphere and contribute to climate breakdown.
The acacia is a key tree in many African ecosystems. Acacias have complex roots which penetrate deep enough to reach the water table, so they help prevent desertification of grassland and provide a much needed source of water for essential grassland species.
All of this means that areas with an abundance of acacia trees will support richer biodiversity and be more resilient to higher temperatures and lack of rainfall, increasing climate resilience.
3. Silver Maple
The silver maple has one of the highest carbon sequestration potentials in the world, but its killer feature is how quickly it grows. In only 55 years, it can be fulfilling its carbon absorbing potential, which is quicker than almost every other species.
4. Bald Cypress
These big beautiful conifer trees are excellent absorbers of carbon, but their unique benefit is protecting against flooding. These trees do well in wet environments and their complex root systems create spaces in the surrounding soils which can then absorb water much more effectively.
5. The Saumama (Kapok)
Sometimes known as the ‘mother of all trees’ by indigenous groups of the Amazon, the Saumama is an iconic Amazonian tree. Its gigantic size and unique root shape means it towers over all other living things, which is poignant given it is one of the most important trees for the natural environment and its inhabitants.
The Saumama provides deep cultural capital for Indigenous people, allowing them to continue protecting the natural environment and sustainably passing on this knowledge to future generations. However, it is under threat from illegal logging and losing the benefits this tree provides could be catastrophic for the sustainability of the Amazon.
How Can We Contribute?
If we are lucky enough to own a slice of land on this planet, we can prioritize planting trees – including those above – to do our bit to fight climate breakdown. Of course, doing this properly is key, so be sure to look into which trees will work best in your local environment.
We can also volunteer for tree-planting programmes in our local area. This is of course positive for the natural environment but can also help increase our connectedness to nature.
Financially supporting rewilding projects that are planting climate-positive trees is also a fantastic way to help. Here are a few organizations to look out for:
It’s easy to forget in our modern, humancentric world, that nature can be our best ally when it comes to the challenges we face, and climate breakdown is no different. By making space for nature to work as it should, we increase the stability, sustainability, and resilience of all life on Earth.