Oxygen – this was usually the first answer shouted out. Our science programs appear to be doing an excellent job getting that point across.
Shade – in the hot Georgia summer, our students knew that having a tree to shade the house, shade the swing set, or even shade the car in the parking lot was a good thing.
Materials and Shelter – trees give us wood to make homes, furniture and paper as well as many other by-products. I tried to remind them that trees also provide homes for other creatures like birds and squirrels.
Beauty – this was not always an item that the kids thought of, but they were more than happy to agree with it when I suggested it.
Erosion Control – the older kids would often think of this one on their own. We’d talk about how mudslides occur in some areas when too many trees have been removed.
Windbreaks and privacy – these are two additional reasons to appreciate trees, but they are not ones that we discussed with the kids. I think as houses get closer and closer together, more kids will probably be able to verbalize the privacy one!
These are all great reasons. The “oxygen” one in particular has encouraged people to plant almost anything because plants=oxygen and the more the better, right? That big stand of kudzu is just an oxygen factory!
As people have learned more, we’ve come to understand that trees have special relationships with some creatures even beyond what I’ve listed above. The leaves of some trees can have a “host” arrangement with certain bugs such that a decline in those trees can result in a decline in certain bugs.
|Oakworm moths grow up on oak trees|
Adding just any tree (or plant) will not support these bugs because this arrangement evolved over thousands of years. Supporting native insects requires that we support native trees because they evolved together. Oh, and do you know who appreciates an abundance of native insects? Birds!
As you take time to be thankful this week, be thankful for all our trees do for us and the critters around us. Should you have an opportunity to plant a tree (or replace one), please consider a regionally native tree for all the extra benefits it will bring.