Rainforests & Trees
Rainforests & Trees
Trees are the lungs of the earth. They remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store it within it’s wood and leaves and thanks to some good old fashioned photosynthesis (thanks, GCSE biology) it produces the air that we breathe, oxygen. It’s a little more complex than that, but you get the idea.
Research suggests that a typical tree can sequester approximately 1 tonne of carbon dioxide in its lifetime by the time it reaches 40 years old. As a comparison, the average flight from London to New York generates about 0.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide. So we need a lot of trees.
Forests and rainforests are fundamental to our existence. They provide many benefits such as improving air quality, stabilizing the water cycle, enhancing wildlife and biodiversity, preventing floods and soil erosion whilst also helping to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There are an estimated 3.1 trillion trees on the planet and one of the most densely populated and important areas is the Amazon Rainforest. It is twice the size of India and produces roughly 16% of the world’s oxygen generated on land. It is estimated that 25% of all ingredients in Western medicine and pharmaceuticals come from plants found in the rainforest.
This incredible ecosystem does a wonderful job at pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and acts as an enormous air conditioner that helps cool the planet and stabilizes the water cycle in South America.
Over 2 billion people rely on forests everyday either for shelter, food, water, fuel, tools, medicine and for their livelihoods. We humans breathe in roughly 9.5 tonnes of air per person each year, and roughly 740kg of that air is oxygen. A sycamore tree standing 40ft in height and weighing two tonnes, will roughly produce around 100kg of oxygen a year, which roughly works out at 7 to 8 trees per person. The issue is not the air we need to breathe, but the amount of excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we need to remove from our atmosphere to decrease the rate of climate change. That’s where our best mate tree comes in.
Since 1980 the global economy has tripled in size, the world’s population has increased by 30% and consumption of everything on the planet has risen at huge cost to the environment.
Although trees are a magnificent renewable resource that with time can replenish themselves, deforestation is happening at a faster rate than the trees can grow back, which means that we are using trees unsustainably. Unless we turn things around, experts predict that the last remaining rainforest could be gone in the next 40 years. It is estimated that we’re losing 27 football pitches of forest every minute due to deforestation. To put that into perspective, every month, an area of forest the size of Wales is destroyed. For every tree that is cut down, burnt and destroyed, most of the carbon that was being stored within its wood is released back into the atmosphere. Tropical deforestation accounts for 15% of net global carbon emissions every year.
It is not just the trees that we are destroying but also plants, animals and other ecosystems. Because of the speed at which we are cutting down trees, we are loosing 137 species of plants and animals every single day, that’s 50,000 species a year.
In 1950, 15% of the earths surface was covered by rainforest, that number has now dropped down to 6%. We have destroyed over 50% of the planet’s rainforests in 70 years.
Trees are our not so secret weapon in the fight against climate change. Like massive carbon sinks, they store and trap excess carbon from the atmosphere and lock it within its wood for centuries. One hectare of forest can store over 400 tonnes of carbon. That’s the same as 400 family cars driving 5,000km each, or the size of 1,400 London double decker busses.
So essentially, we need to plant more trees. New analysis has found that there are 1.7 billion hectares of potential land available for planting new trees in the world, which is roughly the size of the USA and China combined. This would allow the growth of a further 1.2 trillion new trees, which is a third of the current total tree count in the world today.
There are some incredible organisations out there that are taking matters into their own hands and are planting trees by the millions in areas that need it the most, to help tackle the climate crisis head on.
Dendra are on a mission to plant 500 billion trees by 2060, using artificial intelligence and drones which can plant up to 120 seed pods per minute. Dendra believes it would take 400 teams of two drone operators, with 10 drones per team, to plant 10 billion trees a year, at a much lower cost than planting by hand. Dendra are a private company and seem to be well funded, but there are plenty of exciting organisations out there that we would like to support.
The Rainforest Trust purchases and protects threatened rainforests around the world and save endangered wildlife through community engagements and local partnerships. To date, they have protected over 37 million acres of forest and are working towards protecting 50 million acres in total.
The Woodland Trust creates new woodland across the UK in a bid to tackle climate change. They have planted over 50 million trees since 1972, and aim to plant another 50 million within the next 5 years, helping to put the UK on track to meet its carbon net-zero target.
The National Forest has planted almost 9 million trees at the heart of the UK, covering 200 square miles of the midlands. It has transformed a landscape that was known for mass industry and mining into one of beauty full of rich wildlife and habitats for all to enjoy.
From The Blog
Water on earth is constantly moving and being recycled in a continuous exchange of moisture between the oceans, the atmosphere and the land. 90% of the moisture in our atmosphere derives from the evaporation of our oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. The remaining 10% comes from trees and plants in a process called transpiration. A single tree can release around 1,000-2000 litres of water back into the atmosphere every single day. Trees are crucial for maintaining optimum levels of humidity in our air along with ensuring that the water cycle remains in balance.
Rainforests thrive with life and the trees provide crucial habitats for thousands of creatures such as birds, ants, beetles, frogs, snakes, termites, millipedes and many more. Rainforests are home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity, that’s all animals, plants and microorganisms that live on land and even though they cover less than 2% of the earth’s surface, they are home to 50% of the worlds plants and animals. They are so rich with life that they contain more biodiversity than any other ecosystem on the planet. A single English oak tree in the UK can be home to over 280 species of insects.
In the UK, 1 in 6 homes are at risk of flooding. Climate change is accelerating extreme weather events making storms, floods and landslides more common. Trees are an incredible tool when it comes to fighting floods by reducing surface water runoff by 80%. The root systems act like filters, slowing down the water’s absorption into the soil, whilst also allowing the water to penetrate deeper and at a fast rate, reducing the amount of surface water. In a single season, a healthy 100ft tree can absorb an estimated 41,600 litres of water through its roots.
Trees eat sunlight for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On each leaf there are thousands of tiny little breathing tubes called stomata, which open and allow the outside air in, beginning the incredible process of photosynthesis. However, in the winter months when the leaves fall from the trees, the process of photosynthesis essentially stops, leaving any extra CO2 in the atmosphere until the spring.
This incredible video from Nasa tracks the flow of carbon dioxide across the planet for 12 months. The most amount of carbon dioxide is generated in the northern hemisphere, and during the winter months there is an overwhelming amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. However, come spring time, when the leaves on every tree and plant begin to open, they act as an enormous vacuum cleaner and suck up huge amounts of excess CO2.
Individual actions contribute towards the solution as well, and that’s exactly why we made HERO. By reducing the amount of CO2 you produce as you go about your daily life, and inspiring others to do the same, we can move towards a world where we prevent the damage from happening in the first place.
Check out our active Missions on the app, and discover how you can start your journey today.