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The Power of One Tree - The Very Air We Breathe

Posted by Joanna Mounce Stancil, U.S. Forest Service in Forestry
Jun 03, 2019
Covering millions of acres of forested lands in the West, the Ponderosa Pine can grow to heights of over 200 feet. (U.S. Forest Service Photo)
Covering millions of acres of forested lands in the West, the Ponderosa Pine can grow to heights of over 200 feet. (U.S. Forest Service Photo)

The second in a series of blogs honoring the United Nation’s 2015 International Day of Forests

On Saturday, March 21, the U.S. Forest Service will celebrate the United Nation’s International Day of Forests. With such an important worldwide recognition of all forests do for us humans, the Forest Service would like folks to ask themselves: Do I really know how much trees contribute to my daily life?

Or, in another words, what is the power of one tree?

Just as we humans are comprised of many parts functioning together allowing us to do wondrous things, the anatomy of a tree is just as wondrous, empowering them with super hero qualities.

What am I talking about?  A tree has the ability to provide an essential of life for all living things on our planet – oxygen, and the power to remove harmful gases like carbon dioxide making the air we breathe healthier.

Here is how it works:

To keep it simple a tree is comprised of its leaves, stems, trunk and its roots.  When you look at a tree, note that about five percent of the tree is comprised of its leaves, 15 percent its stems, 60 percent goes into its trunk and 20 percent is devoted to its roots.

Here is the super hero part. Through a process called photosynthesis, leaves pull in carbon dioxide and water and use the energy of the sun to convert this into chemical compounds such as sugars that feed the tree.  But as a by-product of that chemical reaction oxygen is produced and released by the tree.  It is proposed that one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people.

Trees also store carbon dioxide in their fibers helping to clean the air and reduce the negative effects that this CO2 could have had on our environment. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, in one year a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange.

So next time you take a deep breath of air give credit to a tree or hug a tree in thanks for what it gives us – the very air we breathe.

Category/Topic: Forestry

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Comments

A student reader
Jun 02, 2019

I found a misspelling in the first paragraph of "how it works" it says Truck instead of Trunk. Not really a big deal...

Ben Weaver
Jun 03, 2019

@A student reader - thank you for spotting that. We've corrected that word.

Jessica
Jun 10, 2019

Wow! Great information!

Ron Hoffman
Jan 08, 2020

Guess we better keep burning fossil fuels to feed the trees.

Jacquelin
Feb 06, 2020

I would like a copy of this. I am so fed up with these big city people trying to tell the world what we need to be doing to “save the planet,” and yet the same people can’t mow down enough trees for houses, condominiums, and apartments!!!
Thank you so much for the information!

Selcuk
Feb 11, 2020

Hey, Is there any information about how much oxygen a tree consume during the night? As a kid I have bren told that plants are also breathing and I would like to learn the consumption rate of oxygen of one tree. Thank you.

Aaron
Feb 13, 2020

"It is proposed that one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people." My question is in how long? In a tree's lifetime? A day? A what?

Fanie Opperman
Mar 12, 2020

I am concerned and others, about the destruction of existing natural forests.....

Rishi Baradhwaj
Apr 27, 2020

I like this article. I'm interested in plants and photosynthesis.

.:Lucas:.
Apr 27, 2020

Hi Rishi!!! I like it to and hope that we can help trees!

Amie P
Apr 28, 2020

This is why we need to plant more trees 😁!

Ella
May 01, 2020

The oxygen that the trees produce is a valuable resource for humans all over the world.

Shachi
Jun 02, 2020

I think that planting trees is very important. One tree can definitely make a difference and that's helping Earth.

Zayd Amin
Jul 27, 2020

Hello I’m Zayd Amin today I learned how trees give us oxygen this was a great artical I also think people are causing problems for the trees by cutting them down and not only animals won’t have a place to live it’s that we won’t have air to breath.

David Cliatt
Sep 06, 2020

I keep seeing, "48lbs of carbon absorbed every year". What is the poundage of oxygen released by a tree in 1year?

Tracey
Sep 21, 2020

We need our trees as they need us. I'm so concerned of how COVID19 virus along with wearing mask has affected the cycle of carbon dioxide for the trees to release enough oxygen for us.
Our natural balance is being destroyed and also with Global warming.

Camylle Tremblay
Nov 01, 2020

Very timely post. I was talking to my grandson about oxygen and trees and was missing the full picture. This article will help me respond to him. Thank you

gabei
Nov 06, 2020

i was wondering if there was a way to simulate the photosynthesis process of a tree and apply that process to CO2-laden areas, thereby not only sequestering the CO2, but producing O2 for us as well

Margaret Koebke
Nov 13, 2020

For every tree cut down a new tree must be planted in the area. What this world needs to control climate change is more trees!

Logan
Nov 15, 2020

How do trees draw in carbon dioxide? What force is pulling that gas into the cells of the leaves?

wallace orcutt
Nov 19, 2020

since I have a lot of trees on my property I am glad to have read this article. i know that we exhale carbon dioxide but I was unaware that the trees absorbed so much. and released the amount of oxygen that it does.

Zair
Dec 05, 2020

So, the power of a single tree can basically give oxygen for 4 people and when the people breathe oxygen and exhale the carbon dioxide out, then the process becomes looped just because of the cause of a tree that consumes the carbon dioxide and gives the oxygen to the people. So that means trillions of people breathe clearly today just because of trees. Thank the trees, not me nor others! (and also give yourself a pat in the back for making this process loop)

Zair
Dec 05, 2020

We need more trees so everyone can breathe healthy so just don't cut way too much trees so we can save the world from breathing artificial air!

Zair
Dec 05, 2020

This is on-topic so I wanted to say that if we get more maple trees, there would be enough honey to cure coughing or something like that. So, there would be lots of honey and breathing too. I am not talking about the "Current World Event" at this time.

David
Jan 23, 2021

With a 4 to 1 ratio, can one determine how much tree area would be needed to reduce CO2 so that oxygen and CO2 are re-balanced and ergo reducing the risk of any future atmospheric/climate change? This may suggest that each country must maintain X-amount of treed area, thereby allowing Y-amount of CO2 producing industry 🤔

Dan Rundell
Jan 28, 2021

A large tree will absorb much more carbon than 48 pounds per year. The process is simple chemistry. Carbon is the building block of life as we know it. Any green living plant absorbs carbon dioxide, extracts the carbon and releases the oxygen. The process is called photosynthesis, and is powered by sunlight. The carbon is combined with water and other trace chemicals to form complex organic substances such as starch, wood, etc. If you take a piece of wood and heat it in a reducing environment (no oxygen) water will be driven off and charcoal will remain. Charcoal is a fairly pure form of oxygen. The only way a plant can get carbon is from the air through photosynthesis. Thus life depends on Carbon Dioxide in the air.

Sandra
Feb 05, 2021

Thanks to my trees for my oxygen

Judith Baricar-Alpuerto
Feb 08, 2021

Would the size of the leaves of the tree matter to the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs? How many years can a mature tree store carbon dioxide? If a tree is cut down does it release the carbon it has stored up?

Thank you for your article The Power of One Tree.

Jerry Austin
Feb 08, 2021

Working to bring developers, builders and homeowners cutting edge green technology would really help in our advocacy to green living. Informative article. Lets go green!

Henry Bruneel
Mar 12, 2021

i was talking with by bro on how this works but i did not now how thanks for the info.

Dr. Ravindra Swaroop
Mar 20, 2021

I love trees, they keep me, my family and the society and the animals alive.

Robert Edvall
Apr 16, 2021

Hi!
In one year, how much carbon dioxide does a mature tree release during the night?