Trees take approval rating hit, but here’s why you should plant more

By 
Erin Schanen

 

Twice in the last two weeks our neighborhood has been without power due to falling trees, this despite a collective investment in taking down more than 50 dead ash trees poised to take out power lines or block road access if they should fall. Suffice to say, the local approval ratings for trees right now are not good.

Over the past few years, removing dead and dangerous trees has accounted for a good part of the household budget that could have been used for much better things such as more dahlia varieties than I have room to plant. And yet, my goal for 2022 is to plant more trees, and I think you should too.

Most gardeners like to think of themselves as people who are doing right by Mother Nature. And generally I think that’s true. Any garden, even small, is better for the ecosystem than a great expanse of perfectly manicured lawn. But even a large organic garden pales in comparison to a mature tree when it comes to what it can do for the environment.

While scientists work to develop massive carbon dioxide containment systems, it turns out that we already have a pretty good one. A typical hardwood tree can sequester about one ton of carbon dioxide via photosynthesis by the time it’s 40 years old. Granted, that’s a drop in the bucket when considering that humans pump out about 40 billion times that every year, but it’s still better than most other containment systems.

But that’s just a small piece of the puzzle. As anyone who has ever sought refuge from the sun on an August day will tell you, trees provide the gift of shade. This not only cools homes in a warming climate, it also helps prevent heat islands — areas with few trees and typically a lot of heat-absorbing asphalt that can be as much as 10 degrees hotter than surrounding areas. Heat islands are often found in poor neighborhoods, where many residents don’t have air conditioning. Trees can actually save lives in these areas.

And, of course, trees also help absorb stormwater runoff, something that is even more important as severe storms become commonplace.

But not all trees are created equal. For positive environmental impact, a long-living hardwood tree gives great bang for the buck. This doesn’t necessarily mean fast-growing trees, which often have a shorter relative lifespan than trees that grow slower.

Planting a diverse group of trees is also important, a lesson that’s easy to learn by looking around any wooded area in Ozaukee County. The emerald ash borer that has decimated the ash tree population won’t be the last invader, be it insect or disease, to attack our trees. By planting a variety of species, such threats won’t be poised to alter our wooded areas so drastically.

There’s one more reason to plant more trees, and it’s even better than all the rest — they are beautiful. The 6-foot tall, skinny tree that you pick up at the nursery might seem underwhelming, but in no time it will become a stunning feature in the landscape that you’ll look at and be grateful you planted.

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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