Trees have great ecological value and provide us with many benefits. Of the natural resources a human being comes in contact with, trees are probably the one we mostly identify with during different stages of our development. They can evoke times of play, love, reflections of childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. They announce the seasons with their blooming or shedding of leaves and reveal, in certain instances, our geographic region. Some of the benefits trees provide are:
They produce oxygen– an essential element for life on earth, both for humans and other living things.
They purify the air– they serve as filters and naturally control the temperatures on Earth. A tree can absorb and retain an average of 13 to 15 pounds (depending on the species) of carbon dioxide (CO2). This gas is one of the so-called “greenhouse gases” which promotes global temperature increase through a natural process called the “greenhouse effect”. Trees absorb the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere caused by excessive fumes generated by certain industrial activities. Through their leaves, bark, and roots, trees also absorb or capture pollutants from the atmosphere such as dust, chlorine, sulfur dioxide, fluorides, among others.
They provide shade– They protect against relentless sunrays, cool the atmosphere through their branches and leaves, and filter sunlight.
They provide habitat for wildlife– They provide proper and useful environment for diverse life forms: fauna and flora.
They add beauty to the landscape– They have aesthetic value; they provide beauty with their shapes, sizes, and blooming patterns.
They help save energy– They cool the environment: a tree can perspire up to 150 gallons of water a day, producing the effect of five air conditioners.
They provide food and other products– They provide, among other things, fruits, wood, charcoal, raw material for paper and housing.
They isolate noise– They are a natural barrier against noise; they absorb sound waves produced by vehicles, airplanes…
They protect against erosion– They protect the soil from erosion caused by water and wind, bringing cohesion to the ground where its root system is. In addition, treetops catch raindrops, divert them, and reduce their speed, which prevents their impact on the ground.
They serve as windbreak– They lessen wind speed, which protects resources, agricultural crops, and coasts during storms and hurricanes.
They alleviate floods– Wetlands, including those with arborous species (for example, mangrove swamps) work as sponges, storing flood waters to be released later. Through their root system, trees also retain surface runoff which allows them to be absorbed by the subsoil and thus prolong the time it takes for them to flow into channels and river beds.
They are an important link in the hydrologic cycle– The surface runoff is absorbed by the roots and then transpired through the leaves, which favors the formation of rain clouds.
They help conserve bodies of water– Trees create fissures in the soil through which rainwater infiltrates and goes into underground aquifers.
Planting and care: Steps for planting a tree
1. Carefully evaluate the place that was chosen for planting (away from buildings, structures, and service lines: electricity, telephone, television, or water).
2. Select a tree that is appropriate for the place where it will be planted (consider its size and shape in adulthood, the amount of water it requires, that its root system does not affect sidewalks or structures, and if you want it to provide shade and ornamentation).
3. Clean all grasses on the ground in an area that is 2 to 3 feet in diameter.
4. Prepare a hole two to three times wider than the root ball of the tree, but of the same depth.
5. Remove the container that covers the root ball; be careful not to damage the roots.
6. Place the root ball in the middle of the hole, keep the tree straight.
7. Fill the hole with the soil that was removed; add water as you fill it.
8. Prepare a dike around the tree that is 2 to 3 feet in diameter.
9. Cover with organic material to retain moisture.
10. Remember to maintain it (water it, weed around it, cut it and add fertilizer after the first year).
Protecting the trees
The DNER is empowered to implement the existing regulations regarding the protection of trees. This is done by introducing the Reglamento de siembra, corte y forestación para Puerto Rico (JP Num. 25), (Rules of planting, cutting, and reforestation for Puerto Rico), which regulates the protection of trees on both public and private property, through the mandatory mechanism of requiring permission from the State for cutting, pruning or removing a tree. The DNER also instills Regulation Number 6766 which regulates the management of threatened and endangered species in Puerto Rico (Reglamento para Regir el Manejo de las Especies vulnerables y en Peligro de Extinción del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto).
In addition, the DNER promotes reforestation programs to increase the area of land covered by trees in urban and rural areas.
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 05, 2014.
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