10 Reasons to be Thankful for Forests

As you gather with family and friends to enjoy a hearty meal and a flurry of holiday events, your plans are probably focused inside — seated around a table, in front of the television watching the big game, or inside the shopping mall.

But, here’s hoping you might also find time to get outside this long weekend for a walk in the woods. It could be to visit a tree farm to shop for a live Christmas tree. It could be in your back yard if you live in the country. It could be to a state park for a hike, or a city park for a stroll. The fresh air can be invigorating and might help refocus your holiday to-do list.

Even if we don’t live near a forest, we all benefit from the breathing for the planet that trees do every day. And so on this Thanksgiving week, The Nature Conservancy offers 10 Reasons to be Thankful for Forests:

Photo Mark Godfrey/TNC (Walking in the woods, in The Nature Conservancy’s Shivering Sands Preserve on Lake Michigan).

1. Absorbing and storing carbon - Because trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into wood, where the carbon stays bound up for hundreds or even thousands of years, living forests are an important part of the earth’s climate system. Growing trees soak up CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks, roots, leaves, and forest soils.

2. Home to people - Three hundred million people around the world actively live in forests and depend on them directly as sources of food, medicine and livelihoods.

3. Source of jobs and livelihoods – More than 1 billion people around the world depend on forests to some extent for their livelihood, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Some 60 million indigenous people are completely dependent on forests for all aspects of their survival. And about 10 million people are employed in forest management and conservation around the world.

Photo Erika Nortemann/TNC (Trees and sky in Hyde Memorial State Park, New Mexico).

4. Wood for furniture, lumber, firewood and other products – In the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, many local communities sustainably harvest mahogany and other wood, as well as chicle, which is used to make chewing gum. Panama hats are actually made from an understory palm from the coastal dry forests of Ecuador. In total, about 30 percent of the world’s forests are used for production of wood and non-wood products (such as food, resins, medicines, etc.).

5. Habitat for mammals, birds, insects – Forests are home to almost half of the world’s species, with some of the richest biodiversity found in tropical forests. Insects and worms help cycle nutrients through the soil. Many rare and endangered species, such as orangutans, gorillas and pandas, depend on dense patches of isolated forest.

6. Preventing flooding – During times of heavy rainfall, lowland forests such as those in floodplains help to absorb water and slow flood flows, preventing damage to soil, property and buildings. Lowland forests such as the blackwater swamps of the Southeast are also spectacularly beautiful habitat for a wide range of wildlife.

7. Conserving soil and water – Trees are an important part of the water cycle. By helping slow runoff and allowing water to filter into the soil, they can preserve groundwater supplies that are important both to people as drinking water and to fish and other aquatic life in nearby streams. Trees also help hold soil in place, reducing erosion by both water and wind.


Photo Mark Godfrey/TNC (Forest in Door County, Wisconsin).

8. Regulating regional climate – When trees are planted in cities, they can help to ease the “heat island” effect and provide cooling shade for homes and buildings, reducing energy usage for air conditioning in the summer. When planted strategically, they can provide effective wind barriers. Large forests also play a role in weather and rainfall patterns and micro-climates. For example, the Amazon rainforest creates conditions that result in regular precipitation for lands to the south that are productive agricultural areas and are thought to even enhance rainfall in the Great Plains of the United States.

9. Natural beauty – Trees and forests are sources of human inspiration and enjoyment- even from afar. Trees are a symbol of life, and in our modern times, of a movement to sustain the environment that all people depend upon. Polling by The Nature Conservancy shows that more than 90 percent of Americans report that trees give them a feeling of peace and tranquility.

10. So we can put trail blazes on something – Protected areas and parks often allow room for trails for hiking, snow sports, and bird-watching, providing people who live outside of forests with a refuge for recreation, tourism, and educational activities. Walking in a forest can be a source of spiritual renewal for many (stillness broken by the whispering of pines, the call of an owl or the rustling of a small animal through brush and dried leaves).

Do you have your own reasons to be thankful for forests? Please share in the comments section below.

Jeff Fiedler, Frank Lowenstein and Lisa Hayden contributed to this post, a version of which originally appeared on Planet Change. The views are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of The Nature Conservancy.

By The Nature Conservancy

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Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne Brownabout a year ago

love the photos, thanks for sharing :)

Bethany Bekolay
Bethany Bekolay1 years ago

I adore trees, Im a total tree-hugger. Always have been, always will be.

Colin Hope
Colin Hope1 years ago

Trees, trees and more trees!!

Eva H.
Eva H.1 years ago

I'm happy to live in a forest.

Georgina Elizab Mcalliste

I must confess I'm a tree hugger.I just love walking in woods

Linda R.
Linda R.1 years ago

I absolutely love trees. They make me happy. :)

Amber N.
Amber N.1 years ago

I live right near a large forest and it's very peaceful to hike in.

Eileen Mary P.
Eileen P.1 years ago

I always plant trees or offset my carbon footprint with the butterfly credits.

Mickey Clees
Past Member 1 years ago

I'm going to plant a tree when I done clicking!!

Borg Drone
Borg Drone1 years ago

I really love walking around in the forest. so peaceful.