The beauty and the importance of the trees around us
A controversy erupted recently about the uprooting of a number of trees in numerous locations in Malta to make way for infrastructural projects and widen roads. Environmentalists, ngo representatives and members of the public expressed concern about these actions, particularly in Ħal Balzan, and appealed for alternative solutions before the trees were cut down.
Trees are important. They are the biggest plants on earth and they give us oxygen, they store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. Trees also provide us with materials for tools and for shelter.
Not only are trees essential for life but, as the longest living species on this earth, they link the past with the present and the future.
The tree branches full of leaves act as a physical filter, absorbing dust and substances that pollute the air. They also provide shelter from the sun’s radiation and mitigate or kill noise.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide while they grow, and the carbon they store in the bark helps to lower the rate of global warming. They also cut down the wind’s velocity and refresh the air as they lose humidity and reflect the heat off their leaves.
Trees are also home to a diversity of species of insects and birds. When trees are still young, they provide shelter and food to communities of birds, insects, fungi and plants. When they grow, the trunk also provides a hideout for species such as moths, hedgehogs and owls.
A mature oak tree can be home to about 500 different species. There are more than 30 species of trees that are protected in Malta. Some of them are quite rare and very few remain. They require a higher level of protection than the others.
Trees strengthen the distinctive character of a place and promote local pride. Woods, such as the one in Buskett, can be used as an education resource (and this is what schools are doing) and draw people to them for various activities such as walking and bird observation. Trees also provide the opportunity for children to play and discover their sense of adventure.
People are drawn to live, work and invest in environmental zones. Research shows that average house prices are substantially higher when the property is flanked by mature trees. Companies benefit from happier workers who are healthier when there are parks or trees nearby. That is why we need more natural parks in our country.
Trees are good for health. Research shows that when you find yourself surrounded by trees and green space your blood pressure, your heart rate and your stress levels go down within a short time.
All in all, all of us should consider trees to be the country’s “lungs”. The authorities should take better care of our trees and everything that lives around us and consider how to lessen the negative impact on the environment so that we, and our children, can carry on enjoying nature.