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Trees grow throughout the world—from the extreme hot tropical regions around the equator to cold regions near the Arctic and the Antarctic. At maturity, trees are usually the tallest of plants, and their height and single main stem differentiates them from shrubs, which are shorter and have many stems. Trees are perennials, plants that live for at least three years. Some species of trees only grow to 4m (13 feet); but the tallest species may reach heights of more than 112 m (more than 367 feet). Environmental Benefits of Planting Trees Trees are like the lungs of the planet. They breathe in carbon dioxide (CO2) and breathe out oxygen. Additionally, they provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. Carbon dioxide is one of the major contributing elements to the greenhouse effect. Trees trap this gas from the atmosphere and make carbohydrates that are used for plant growth. They give us oxygen in return. Mature trees can absorb roughly 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. The tree in turn releases enough oxygen to sustain two human beings. Trees also help to reduce ozone levels in urban areas. How Planting Trees Helps the Environment Planting trees help to prevent global warming by reducing levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and the levels of water evaporating into the atmosphere, which increases cloudiness. Clouds will reflect solar radiation so there will be less heat. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide can be reduced by photosynthesis. Trees make their own nutrients from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, water, sunlight, and minerals in the soil. They also release oxygen, cleaning the air in this process. This process helps the environment by removing large quantities of the major “greenhouse gas” involved in global climate change: carbon dioxide. Trees also help us by absorbing other pollutants and replenishing the oxygen in the atmosphere. Trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks and roots. They also absorb chemicals like carbon monoxide and filter and catch pollutants like smoke, dust and ash. They also help to reduce ozone levels. Planting trees can reduce air pollution. Through respiration and by removing pollutants trees reduce air pollution. Trees also absorb sound and reduce noise pollution. This is especially important for people who live near freeways. In some cases, a well planted group of trees can reduce noise pollution by up to 10 decibels. Trees absorb water which helps to prevent flooding and helps to distribute rain more evenly. Trees reduce the amount of topsoil that runs off into sewers and streams by retaining water. Tree leaves on the ground trap chemicals, keeping them out of lakes and rivers, and retain moisture close to the ground. This helps other plants to grow. Those are some ways trees help to control and prevent soil erosion. How Trees Help to Save Energy Planting trees can also help cool your home. The overall effect of the shade created by planting a healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day! Trees can act as windbreaks for your home and will help you save on heating costs. Trees shade buildings, streets, and homes. If enough trees are planted in cities, the overall microclimate improves and total energy use for heating and cooling is reduced. Social and Economic Benefits of Planting Trees The presence of trees in the environment makes you feel good. Imagine your community without trees? Trees, especially in urban areas, have numerous social benefits. For example, the addition of trees to a neighborhood or a business district can greatly improve the mental and physical health of residents and workers. Another example is with children with learning disorders. As a form of therapy, children that suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can benefit from the presence of trees and other greenery. Kids with ADHD have been proven to be calmer, more responsive, and better able to concentrate when in a space with lots of trees. (Source: Taylor, A.F.; Kuo, F.; Sullivan,W. 2001) Houses with trees are also more attractive to visitors, potential buyers, and neighbors (the Ikoyi, Apapa axis in Lagos is a case study). Trees are very essential to our life. You can help to prevent global warming and reduce pollution by planting trees yourself. Planting trees in your neighborhood really is one of the best things you can do for the local environment. Trees help the environment, but you may be surprised by all the benefits that planting trees can provide. Besides producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide and contaminants from the air, the benefits are myriad. The great thing is that we as humans can play an active role in planting trees to help offset deforestation and urbanization. I personally give credit to the Lagos, Cross River, and Akwa–Ibom States Governments for all they have done in environmental upgrade via horticulture and afforestation. Protect the environment today, plant a tree.

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This article was first published on 4th June 2012 and updated on June 7th, 2012 at 5:42 pm

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