Well not quite, but all of those trees in the jungle do serve a purpose. And, all the same great assets that trees provide in the jungle can also benefit us in our own backyards.
When making home improvements, we often consider whether or not we will get a return on our investment. It doesn't take long to realize that homes with healthy, mature, well placed trees, in neighborhoods that offer the same, are in higher demand. Homes offering this can be valued as much as 15 percent higher. Aesthetics play a big part as trees offer wildlife habitat for migrating birds, provide color to our lawns with seasonal splashes of color, and can muffle road and airport noise. But, trees provide more that an aesthetic benefit to your home. They also provide environmental and financial benefits.
Here are a few:
The air we breathe - "Carbon in, oxygen out", one of the first lessons children learn in science class. Trees absorb air pollutants and particulates by storing that carbon in the wood, roots and leaves to be used as food for the tree. The oxygen that is released from a mature leafy tree annually can produce enough oxygen for 10 people! This process helps to reduce our carbon "footprint", decreasing "greenhouse" gases, and decreasing the potential for global warming.
The water we drink - Whether your drinking water comes from a well, spring, pond or public water system, trees play a critical role in cleaning and protecting this precious natural resource. Tree roots absorb storm water and bind the soil reducing rapid runoff thereby decreasing the potential for flash flooding and erosion. One mature Maple tree can absorb 1,000 gallons of water a day! As water infiltrates into the soil, the roots hold soil in place and soil microorganisms are able to latch onto and break down harmful pollutants. While tree roots do their thing, the leaves of a tree act to slow the wind and collect rainfall.
The bills we pay - Heating and cooling our homes, schools and businesses can be expensive. Strategically planted trees around buildings can act as windbreaks and as shade umbrellas. Breaking winter wind can lower heating cost as much as 30 percent. In the summer, windbreaks reduce the moisture loss of soil and plants, decreasing watering cost. Also, in the summer, the added shade reduces the need for air conditioning use. Cities without shade are "heat islands" and temperatures can be as much as 12 degrees higher than other areas.
So, when making home improvements, in urban or rural settings, consider trees as a healthy investment with much return to offer for you and your neighborhood.
If you're interested in planting trees, spring is a great time to do so. Take advantage of Washington Soil and Water Conservation District's (SWCD) annual tree seedling sale. Packets are available as mixed or bulk. Prepaid orders are appreciated by April 1 with a tentative pick up date of April 15. For more information or advice on what to plant contact Dean Sinclair, Washington SWCD wildlife specialist, at (740) 373-7113 ext. 236.
Kathy Davis is with the Washington Soil and Water Conservation District. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.