Growing up in the Pocono’s, my entire childhood was spent immersed in the woods. I built little tree forts, explored the ephemeral streams that wound through the leaf litter, and climbed the tallest cliffs and boulders dotting the Pennsylvanian forest. As an excitable human with a child’s heart and great imagination, forests mean adventure! As a naturalist, ecologist, and conservation photographer, forests mean biodiversity and a wealth of discovery just waiting under the next rock, behind the next tree, or even in the canopy!
However, not all of us had the chance to grow up surrounded by trees for as far as the eye could see (which actually isn’t that far since the trees block the distant view….). Some live in areas where trees are present, however there is also spacious farmland or fields. Some live in areas where they may have one or two backyard trees and maybe one in the front, but three trees doth not a forest make. Some live in areas where nature is scarce and there are more houses and apartments than plants on the street. Regardless of WHERE we live, trees and forests have an impact on our lives.
For starters – do you like to breathe? Just one acre of forests can provide enough clean air for up to 18 people each year! Think of how many people there are in the world (as of July 1st, 2020 the world population was 7,794,798,739). In order to sustain that many people, there would (using the 1 acre per 18 people) need to be at least 433,044,374 acres of forest across the globe.
Along with providing us with clean oxygen, forests also have the amazing ability to sequester Carbon and remove Carbon Dioxide from the air. Just as 1 acre of forest can provide oxygen, it can also remove and filter out 2.6 TONS of CO2! As climate change continues, trees can be one of our greatest allies and friends in mitigating the change.
Not only do forests clean our air for us and act as the world’s lungs, forests also provide valuable habitat for countless creatures! Many people immediately think of the Amazonian Rainforest as the hub of biodiversity, but did you know that the Appalachian Mountains and forest range in the Eastern US boasts one of the highest places of biodiversity in the United States? More than 15,000 species have been documented living in these forests. Can you imagine what life would be like without this forest to provide homes for the wonderful animals that we love? Raccoons, Chipmunks, Elk, Skunk, Black Bear, numerous hawk and raptor species, and dozens of frogs and other amphibians such as lungless salamanders would be without homes. These animals all help to manage the food web and without them and others, the food web would be in thrown into chaos and many pest species would be left un-managed naturally.
So, this week – National Forest Week – celebrate the wonderful forests near you! Discover a new trail, camp out under the stars, and immerse yourself in a whole new world of leafy green! Sometimes, it’s not as easy as we’d like it to be to get outside under the canopy, so bring the canopy to you!
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