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Amid rampant deforestation, every tree counts. You can help by planting one at home

A tree canopy as seen from the ground.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

How many proverbs and inspirational sayings have been written about trees? How many poems pay tribute?

Trees are foundational to life, critical to our air and water supplies and providing food and shelter for billions of creatures across the world. Trees also help prevent climate change because they remove carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, according to American Forests.


Because of these essential functions, every tree standing is an important one, but forests — especially mature forests — are particularly critical as a solution for climate change, American Forests reports. In the United States, forests and forest products capture and store nearly 15 percent of our nation's annual carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. 

Although we know that trees are beneficial and even crucial to healthy ecosystems, we are losing them at an astounding rate. More than 6 trillion trees once stood on Earth, but today our planet has just 3 trillion trees, and we are losing 10 billion more a year, according to the Trillion Trees initiative, a collaboration of the World Wildlife Fund, BirdLife International and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Replacing these trees, a process called reforestation, is a key component in plans to address climate change, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Reforestation typically refers to large-scale efforts to both plant new trees and plant replacements for trees that were harvested for timber or destroyed in wildfires and other weather events. 

Reforestation aims to mitigate the effects of deforestation, the impacts of which can be far reaching. More than 80 percent of the world's land-living creatures live in forests and savannas, and more than 250 million people in the world rely on forests for their livelihood, National Geographic reports. Without reforestation, deforestation threatens the survival of untold people and animals.

Large-scale reforestation efforts are needed to help overturn the adverse effects of deforestation, but every tree planted helps, and you can do your part by planting a tree in your yard. Planting trees at home has many benefits. It helps reduce the effects of climate change and also helps reduce pollution, the Arbor Day Foundation reports. Strategically placed trees can also help us save energy by providing shade in the summer and blocking cold wind in the winter, in turn reducing the energy we need to heat and cool our homes. Need more convincing? Having mature trees in your yard and neighborhood can also help increase property values. 

Don't know what to plant? Native trees are best, but you should also make sure to pick a tree species that will grow well in the spot you have selected. Morton Arboretum's Tree Selector will provide a list of suitable trees based on the site you've chosen and what kind of tree you are looking for. 

Once your tree is planted, you'll begin reaping the many benefits, and the bigger and more mature it gets, the better. One large tree can provide enough oxygen for one day for four people, and a mature tree absorbs more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, the Arbor Day Foundation reports.  

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