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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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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.

Jun 10, 2019

Wow! Great information!

Ron Hoffman
Jan 08, 2020

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

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!

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.

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.

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 😁!

May 01, 2020

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

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?