Planting native Irish trees isn’t just a meaningful way to cherish the memory of someone who has passed, nor is it simply a way to gift a tree to a loved one in times of celebration. Planting trees has a myriad of significant benefits for the environment.
By their very nature, trees serve to both cleanse and protect the environment from harmful substances and activities as they slowly help to repair the damage foolishly inflicted onto the environment by mankind. It is not inaccurate to think of planting a tree as akin to opening a window in a room full of thick dark smoke.
The woodlands of Ireland are our greatest and most effective natural asset in detoxifying our air and lands. Therefore, few things are as crucial to maintaining and improving the health of our environment as planting trees.
First and foremost, planting trees helps to slow down and combat the devastating effects of climate change. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with clean, pure oxygen. Trees absorb carbon and store it within their trunk, branches and leaves in a process known as sequestering. As long as a tree lives, and trees can live for many decades and even centuries, the carbon remains trapped within.
It is helpful to think of the planting of native Irish trees as similar to creating natural sponges, soaking up countless amounts of carbon dioxide from the air and keeping our surroundings clean and fresh. The excessive production of greenhouse gases from destructive activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and manufacturing, can be partially counterbalanced by the planting of native Irish trees.
Another important benefit of tree planting is the fact that trees and their root systems help to purify and slow rainwater before it seeps back into our streams and rivers. Trees act as a buffer between the water falling from the sky as rain and the water coursing in our rivers.
Trees in Irish woodlands intercept rain as it falls, providing rain with more places to land such as on their branches or leaves. This means that much of rainwater evaporates before it even reaches the ground and this is pivotal to reducing surface runoff.
Extensive surface runoff can cause streams and rivers to swell and overflow, breaking their banks and ultimately flooding. The roots of large trees near rivers also help to stabilise and strengthen river banks and prevent them from collapsing. The roots of trees promote the infiltration of water from the surface of the ground into the soil as tree roots absorb large amounts of water.
The extra surface area provided by leaf canopies and foliage helps to reduce the detrimental effects of soil erosion by minimising the impact of rain onto the ground. The more times that people plant a tree means there is more surface area to intercept the fall of rain. Rainwater slowly drains down the branches and trunk of a tree and is then soaked up by the soil.
If it weren’t for trees, rainwater would hit the ground with unimpeded force and wash the soil away rather than be soaked up by it. Excessive soil erosion can lead to infertile land, stripping soil of its moisture and nutrients.
Infertile, degraded land is far less capable of absorbing and holding water, which causes increased amounts of pollution and sedimentation in rivers as well as increasing the risk of flooding. Native Irish trees act as natural filters to soil and rivers. This is yet another reason why planting trees in Ireland is so vital to the health of the environment.
Planting trees in Ireland is also imperative to maintaining the natural balance of the environment and its inhabitants. Simply put, birds and animals need trees in order to survive and the native Irish trees found throughout our woodlands are the most critical component of protecting and preserving our wildlife.
Trees act as a limitless source of shelter and sustenance for countless woodland creatures. Trees and their undergrowth provide an abundance of food for various wildlife while also providing them with a natural habitat. The cover and shade supplied by the canopies of leaves and foliage protects small animals from harsh conditions and predators, both animal and human.
Our environment would be greatly damaged by the absence of all the animals who depend on the trees of Ireland, which is why we must conserve and expand the environments in which they thrive. Every time you gift a tree in honour or celebration of someone, you are also providing a home and food source to the many animals inhabiting the woodlands of Ireland.
There are no conceivable negatives to planting trees in Ireland but there are countless positives. Nature-based solutions, such as planting trees, are consistently found to be the most effective in the fight against climate change and it is something to which you can easily contribute.
Gifting a tree in memory of a loved one is also an invaluable gift to the future of our precious planet. It serves a dual purpose of remembering those who have passed and considering the health and happiness of generations to come. Planting trees is the best weapon we have at our disposal in tackling the climate crisis and saving our environment.
Your memorial tree can be in honour of both the past and the future.
Article written by Nicholas Collender.