FACTS ABOUT TREES
• In botany, trees are generally defined as multi-year living
plants that have a large trunk and sprout branches. Overall,
there are an estimated 60,000 different species of trees.
• Trees represent some of the world’s oldest species still in
existence, dating back to around 350 million years ago.
Trees also live the longest out of any species; a tree in
Sweden being over 9,500 years old.
• The variety of trees is remarkable, from the fruit they
grow, the colors of their leaves, to even the shape of their
branches. Bonsai trees can measure less than a foot in its height while the redwood trees in
California measure a height of over 300 feet.
• Globally, trees occupy around 30.6% of the Earth’s land area, down from 31.6% in 1990. From
2015 to 2016, the world lost 73.4 million acres of trees, a 51% increase from the amount lost the
• Human actions continue to be the biggest direct cause of deforestation, with commodity-driven
deforestation totaling around 27%.
• For an in-depth and interactive look at changes in forests worldwide, check out this map to see the
changes of forests in your community.
WHY WE NEED TO PROTECT TREES
Role in the Ecosystem: Trees play a central role not only in
the ecosystems of forests themselves but in relation to other
species that forests support. Most notably, trees help maintain
nutrient-rich soil for other plants to grow, provide shelter and
habitat for animals, and help significantly in the water cycle.
Ecosystem Services: One of the most significant services that
trees provide is the sequestration of carbon, which helps keep
the air clean and nearby temperatures at a healthy level.
Additionally, trees have a powerful role in providing well-being
in both urban and rural environments. Culturally, trees play
a central role in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism as
well as symbols of hospitality in several African communities.
Economic Contributions: Globally, the value of fuelwood and wood-based products is estimated to
be worth $400 billion. In the state of New York alone, the forestry industry employs 41,000 people
and has a direct output of over $13 billion. Finally, urban trees in America were calculated to have
stored 643 million tons of carbon, a service valued at $50 billion.
Uniqueness: Although trees appear to be an idle species, swaying gently in the wind, studies have
found trees to be anything but! For instance, European beech and Sycamore maple trees have been
observed to know when animals are consuming their sap or branches and will try to deter the animals
to protect themselves. Quaking aspens, moreover, exist not as a single stand-alone tree, but rather
as an interconnected group, united by a layer of underground roots.
THREATS TO TREES
Deforestation: The removal of trees for commercial,
agricultural, and residential purposes occurs all
around the world. Rainforests are especially vulnerable. The Amazon rainforest in Brazil has lost 20%
of its area since the 1970s, with some scientists
estimating that all the world’s rainforests could be
lost in the next century.
Climate Change: The increasing amounts of carbon
dioxide trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere places a
strain on the ability of trees to convert that carbon
into oxygen through photosynthesis, ultimately
weakening the health of trees. Additionally, rising
temperatures from climate change can harm a tree’s
internal life cycle and make it harder to reproduce.
Insects: One of the most pervasive threats to trees around the world is the prevalence of non-native
insect species that can inflict severe and lasting damage to various tree species. In the United
States, 63% of the country’s national forestry is threatened by invasive insects.
Forest Fires: Decreased rainfall and increased temperatures make forests much more fire-prone.
What is worse, the fires that do occur in forests are more intense, deadly, and greatly reduce the
ecosystem’s ability to recover. In Indonesia, for instance, the country suffered some of its worst
forest fires at the end of 2015. The fires were so destructive that at one point they were releasing
more carbon than the entire U.S. economy in a single day.
HOW TO HELP TREES
Advocate for Urban Trees: As the world becomes more urbanized, it will be important to retain a
strong level of trees in dense population centers. Encouraging your local urban government to adopt
tree-planting measures and ordinances; doing so provides both health and economic benefits to the
Support Sustainable Forestry: Deforestation specially of virgin forest has a detrimental impact on
the environment. By buying wood and their products from certified sustainable sources, you can
help ensure that the forest and their ecosystems continue to thrive.
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