Green Junction: Have you ever thought about trees? by Julie Peller Ph.D.

The glorious colors of the trees in the fall are a reminder of nature’s beauty. Trees provide so much more than stunning foliage. Trees clean the air, filter water, control water drainage, sustain biodiversity, provide a home for animals, take in carbon dioxide, store carbon, and are a significant source of oxygen; and the list goes on. Like many other aspects of nature, humanity poses a threat to the earth’s tree population, which has been declining for years a result of careless deforestation and wildfires. 

A large amount of data has been compiled over the years on deforestation – defined simply as the action of clearing away trees. An estimated 28 million hectares (~69 million acres) of forests have been cleared yearly since 2016. This amount is comparable to a football field of forest lost every second. A recent global forests review found that “primary forest loss in the tropics in 2021 resulted in 2.5 Gt of carbon dioxide emissions,” an amount equivalent to a year of fossil fuel emissions in India. 

To counter this loss, numerous organizations have been planting trees for years. These include One Tree Planted, The Nature Conservancy, the Arbor Day Foundation, Trillion Tree Campaign, and Trees for the Future.  According to the United Nations Environmental Program, an estimated 1.9 billion trees are planted every year. World leaders have also responded. At the 2021 Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forests and Land Use, 141 participating countries committed to collectively “halt and reverse forest loss by 2030,” which will require a committed effort for the rest of the decade.

Poplar trees are laughing trees, With lilting silver call. Willow trees droop weepingly and never laugh at all. Maple trees are gorgeous trees in crimson silks and gold; Pine trees are but sober trees, aloof and very old.” (part of Polar Trees are Happiestby John Russell McCarthy)

Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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