University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
A BILLION TREES
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
There are at least one-third less trees worldwide than
at one time. Yet trees have value in
producing oxygen, using carbon from the atmosphere (which we in turn use for
fuel and timber, among other purposes), and providing many other uses such as
for medicines, food, and even pesticides.
To help counter the loss of trees, the United Nations has launched a
campaign this year to plant over one billion trees worldwide. They provide some interesting facts on trees,
how they directly can help you, and how you can easily help this “Plant for the
Planet: Billion Tree Campaign.”
Here are some interesting facts on the value of trees
in forests and in landscapes:
make up for the loss of trees in just the past decade, we would need to replant
321 million acres. This would entail
planting about 14 billion trees every year, for 10 consecutive years. So, while
this program sounds like many trees, and is, it is only the beginning of what
one year, an average tree produces enough oxygen for a family of four, for one
tree will absorb the carbon dioxide from four cars, every year.
trees remains the cheapest, and most effective, means of drawing excess carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere.
100 million trees could reduce carbon by an estimated 18 million tons per year,
saving American consumers $4 billion each year on
trees can reduce utility bills for air conditioning by 15 to 50 percent.
net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air
conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
winter, evergreen windbreaks can save up to 25 percent on heating costs.
trees can add up to 15 percent to residential property values.
indicate that trees help create feelings of relaxation and well-being.
There are four priority areas in the
Billion Tree Campaign for planting trees: degraded natural forests and
wilderness areas, farms and rural landscapes, sustainably managed plantations,
and urban environments. To be
sustainable and successful, trees chosen for planting should be native and
adapted to the climate and soil of a particular site. Mixtures of species should be used to create
diversity. This in turn will lessen
pests and diseases, and provide a more beneficial habitat for wildlife.
If you have been thinking of
planting trees in your landscape, this year would be good to get started. If you haven’t considered this, but have some
open space, perhaps you could plant a shade tree, or a row of evergreen trees
as a hedge or windbreak, trees to stabilize slopes, or even a small grove of
evergreen seedlings. The latter will
provide a mini-forest for wildlife as it grows.
If you are short on space, why not plant evergreens such as balsam firs
that you can thin out as they grow, with use by you or others over the winter
holidays. If you don’t have space, check
locally to see if you can contribute time or funds to the planting of trees in
public spaces such as parks.
The idea for this campaign came from Professor Wangari
Maathai, founder of Kenya’s
Green Belt Movement, and the 2004 winner of the Nobel
Peace prize. When she was told that a
corporate group in the United States was planning to plant
a million trees, she responded “That’s great, but what we really need is to
plant a billion trees.” As of spring
2007, over 830 million trees already have been pledged to be planted.
If you are planning to plant trees, even a single
tree, this year, you too can enter your pledge on the United Nations
Environment Program website in a few short minutes (www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign). You then can return and add when they were
planted. This site has information on
the history of this program, how trees are vital worldwide, why the numbers are
declining, how to plant trees, and much more.
Make sure when choosing trees to know what climate and
soils they require, or ask local nursery professionals. These professionals, arborists, local
foresters, and extension agencies can provide help on choosing, proper
planting, and subsequent care to make sure your trees survive and thrive for
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