What good do trees actually do?

aman007 asked this question on 9/25/2000:

Please explain to me why forests need to be saved and what are their uses.

Anonymous asked this question on 10/5/2000:

Preservation people were kept their forest and timber companies wanted to cut trees in the forest
Anyway Which side do you agree and why forest is important to human ?
Please answer to me....Thank you

A viewer asked this question on 5/18/2000:

Will the pollution level go up if the government destroys the forest preserves and builds a themepark? If so why?

JesseGordon gave this response on 5/19/2000:

Yes, pollution levels would go up, even outside the esthetic value of forest over theme park.

1) Deforestation causes more global warming. Trees contain tons of carbon, which releases carbon dioxide when the trees are burned or when they rot. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main cause of global warming. The amount released depends on how the trees are used (they could be buried, for example, with no CO2 release).

2) Having fewer trees also increases global warming on an ongoing basis. Item (1) is about the carbon in the trees themselves. In addition to that, trees convert CO2 in the atmosphere back into more tree (via photosynthesis) plus oxygen (O2). There are two effects of that: less atmospheric CO2, and more atmospheric oxygen. The O2 effect we wouldn't see unless we removed trees like this for thousands of years (because there's a lot more O2 in the atmosphere than CO2). The CO2 effect we would notice as even faster global warming. The amount of CO2 effect here would depend on what was planted to replace the trees. If the theme parks were all paved, you'd get the biggest effect.

3) Both of those focus on tree's "sequestering carbon." One of their other big effects is to hold soil in place (via their root structure). With no trees around, soil runoff would increase, which means the soil would be less able in the future to grow other plants, and nearby streams would become muddier. Those streams would lead to other rivers, and the overall effect would be more silt in all rivers downstream. More silt means less fish, because fish use spaces between rocks to lay eggs, and many spaces would be filled with the additional mud.

4) Trees also help keep water clean by catching other materials before they run into streams and rivers. During a rainstorm in a large theme park, for example, oils from the parking lot, etc., would flow directly into nearby streams and rivers. Trees along the river banks (we usually recommend a couple hundred feet of "conservation strips") creates a tangle of brush that would catch some of the oil (or whatever other runoff is there). More oil in rivers means less healthy swimming and less healthy fish habitat.

5) Trees also suck up water at prodigious rates. During large rainstorms, that has the effect of keeping river levels moderated. In other words, forests provide flood control. If you cleared a large forest, you'd end up with rivers more likely to flood. That would especially be the case in a theme park, because you'd have large cleared areas with storm drains that quickly concentrate all the water into one place. You'd have to build large "swales" or water holding areas to compensate.

So in conclusion, by converting forest to theme park, you'd have more global warming, more soil erosion, less healthy water, less fish, and more flooding. It had better be a really nice theme park!

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