So far through these blogs I’ve explored how veteran trees support a massive range of other plants, fungi and animals that couldn’t survive without them. This week I’d like to look at how another animal that often gets overlooked really needs these ancient trees: us humans!
Ancient trees can convert massive amounts of carbon dioxide to oxygen and can also take other pollutants out of the air meaning it is healthier for us and the wildlife to breathe.
Mature woodland that contain old growth trees also hold back water during heavy rain events and this can help to reduce flooding downstream saving our homes and businesses from damage. Large trees have large crowns and all those millions of leaves intercept water on its way to the ground slowing the rate at which it enters the ground and so slows the rate at which it flows into local watercourses.
As well as all the above that could come under the umbrella of “ecosystem services” – ways in which natural features contribute financially to society – ancient trees also have more intrinsic value. They can be culturally important, serving as physical reference points in the landscape, and as monuments to bygone eras.
Last but not least we cannot ignore the fact that veteran trees are beautiful. Research has shown that house prices can be massively increased by having a tree nearby showing that our love of trees means we are willing to part with cold hard cash in order to be near them regularly. They help us pass on vital stories, they give us shade on hot days and they help us relax in a more and more stressful world – when our lives move so fast seeing something that grows so slowly and lives for a thousand years can give us some well needed perspective! Some yew trees in the UK have been estimated to be over 2000 years old which means they were standing when the Romans were here, when the Saxons came, and the Normans after them all the way through the centuries until in the 21st century. It’s quite difficult to imagine the sheer number of stories that tree could tell. I think it’s important that we keep this tradition alive – the great classical poets had quills and parchment while we have phones and selfie sticks. Who cares how we do it, let’s just continue to celebrate these trees.
The next blog I post will be an update on how the project is going a whole and what the volunteers and I will be up to over this winter.
Tree Trivia: The tree that shed the apple that led to Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity still lives. It fell over in the Victorian age and was picked apart for souvenirs by tourists. However the roots survived and have now regrown into a mature tree.