Trees on the Front Lines of Our Changing Climate

by David Gilley Trees are some of the most important canaries in the climate coal mine. Jim Robbins makes a powerful case for “Why Trees Matter” in an April column published by the New York Times.

“Trees are on the front lines of our changing climate. And when the oldest trees in the world suddenly start dying, it’s time to pay attention.”

All too often people equate climate change simply with higher air temperatures from greenhouse gas pollution. Unfortunately, climate change will reshape our environment by changing water availability, soil productivity, and viability of many species on top of messing with the planet’s thermostat.

Robbins makes the case that higher temperatures and drier soil conditions associated with climate change are stacking the deck against many species of trees. These changes are further compounded by poor forest management practices that clear-cut old growth for development or industrial tree farms. As a result, we are losing the many things that trees do to enhance our natural environment. Among those benefits, Robbins mentions temperature regulation, insect and animal habitat, air quality, water quality, wood products, and aesthetics. Trees even seem to help us humans to heal.

“In Japan, researchers have long studied what they call “forest bathing.” A walk in the woods, they say, reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases natural killer cells in the immune system, which fight tumors and viruses. Studies in inner cities show that anxiety, depression and even crime are lower in a landscaped environment.”

Here are three things you can do to help – (1) read Jim Robbin’s column in the New York Times, (2) follow his advice to plant more trees [see below], and (3) demand better management of our forest resources.

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