How do trees help our eco-system?

Why are trees; those enormous, dignified-looking plants, so important for us and our planet?

The chief task of our friendly green giants is to metabolise CO2. As we (should..) know from our biology classes, plants use sunlight during photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose. They essentially enable us to breathe! Accordingly, an active reforestation of the forests and the creation of windfall meadows is a real and effective step to ensure that we counteract global CO2 emissions .

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An intact forest protects animals

In addition to binding CO2, forests are also the habitat of countless animal species. To be precise, almost half of all known animal species live in forests - about 80% of the creatures living on land.

But not only deer, wildcats, monkeys, raccoons, beetles, wild boars and birds find their home in the forest. There are also 300 million people around the world who live in forest areas.

The list of forest functionality does not end there.

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The forest is important for the global climate

Another important reason why we need forests: they keep us and the earth cool. Due to their size and the breadth of their branches they function as quazi umbrellas! In other words they cast shadows on the ground which help to keep the earth cool. They also protect anything around them from direct sunlight, i.e buildings and infrastructure. Wouldn't more forests just be the most fantastic replacement for air conditioning systems and fans..?! (This would certainly save a great deal of energy).

Forests keep the earth clean

Trees are the masters when it comes to cleaning. They clean dirty floors by binding or even breaking down toxins. They also make our air clearer, because in addition to the CO2 mentioned above, trees also bind other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Forests as the forgotten food-sources

A not inconsiderable aspect is food. Trees can give food to us and other living beings. In addition to juicy fruits, we also benefit from nuts, leaves and seeds. The forest floor also offers space for mushrooms such as chanterelles or porcini mushrooms and nutrient-rich berries such as wild blueberries, wild strawberries or blackberries to grow. And it's not just food for us they're providing. The biodiversity they create through their fallen leaves and bark create biodiversity in the soil. Much of the old knowledge we had about forests as a primary food-source has been neglected.

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In spring there are a whole host of wonderful plants for us to consume. Young beech leaves can be eaten, wild garlic cleans the bloodstream and many wild plants such as garlic mustard, dead nettles, dandelions, ribwort, bedstraw, even nettles, can supply the human organism with a great deal more nutrients than modern cultivated fruit and veg in the supermarket.

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Even the local nettles have more vitamin C than a sugary orange from southern Europe. In summer, millions of berries ripen in our forests and provide humans and animals with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

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Especially in autumn countless hazelnuts, walnuts, chestnuts and beechnuts grow in our European forests and even in winter edible moss or strengthening birch sprouts can be collected.

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The time has come for another fun fact: around 70% of the herbs used for cancer treatment only grow in ancient or native forests (e.g rainforests.)

The forest as rain-producer

Trees absorb vast amounts of water, are involved in creating clouds and thereby cause precipitation. When a forest dies there is less rain and when there is less rain the soil dries up. At this point direct sunlight can weaken the unprotected ground, which is also at greater risk from rough winds which the now deforested trees cannot shelter it from.

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Wood - the resource of mankind

Humans have always built their homes with the help of nature. Solid oak trunks held the thick pillars of the longhouses of our ancestors. Thousands upon thousands of hazelnut shells isolated the icy floors of the deposits in winter. With this rapid development, the use of wood increased to such an extent that entire forests cut down in order to be used for building fleets of ships.

The industrial revolution has changed the economic working conditions and social living conditions so fundamentally that hitherto unimagined proportions of European forest destruction have become a reality. Whole vast areas of woodland became victims to deforestation in order that enough charcoal could be provided for the new steam engines.

Eisenbahn Lokomotive

Now let's run a little experiment. Take a minute and look around your surroundings. Are you at home in your living room right now? Are you lying on your beloved, cozy bed? Maybe outside on a park bench? In the office?
No matter where you are, there is a fairly high probability that you are surrounded by wood or other "tree products". Furniture, houses or paper. We owe all of these things to trees and their precious resources. So where would we be without them? One thing is certain - many people would be without work. According to figures from the U.N, almost 10 million people are involved in forest management. If we want to continue to enjoy this luxury, we have to protect our forests. Sustainable use of their resources is not an option, it is a must.

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In addition to all of the reasons just mentioned, we at AHO, who live on a 1 hectare forest property, would like to highlight one point in particular.

Forests are a place of relaxation. If you are surrounded by a wide variety of plant species; observing the play between light and shadow, insects, stimulating smells and soothing birdsong, you have no choice but to relax. Our senses enjoy nature and are inspired by it. The chaos of thought comes to a standstill and we can take a deep breath - be it the damp, musty forest air or even the relevant scent of various herbs such as wild garlic. The unique atmosphere of a forest is unmistakable and gives us as humans incredible strength and energy.

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So trees and forests are important to us, other living beings and the planet on innumerable levels. Their relevance is priceless. So there is no question that it must be our job to protect them.

*This blog entry was created with the help of Chantal Bode.

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