A week to celebrate, plant and look after our tree heritage
TREES produce oxygen, which we need for survival and life itself. Just one mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year.
This week we celebrate National Arbour Week, from September 1 to 7.
There is a country wide campaign aimed at motivating schools, businesses and communities to plant, sponsor and look after South Africa’s natural tree heritage.
Trees are important as they improve the air quality and also absorb carbon. In doing so, they contribute towards counteracting global warming.
According to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, trees make effective sound barriers as they are able to muffle urban noise almost as effectively as stone walls. Trees also act as windbreaks during the windy season.
In winter, the same trees break the force of winter winds, lowering heating costs.
During the rainy seasons trees help prevent soil erosion and also mark boundaries and strengthen terraces.
While providing shade, they provide privacy for our homes and give us fuel, timber, stakes, poles, crops, fodder, fruit, nuts, oilseeds, leaves, pods, tannins, dyes, raisins, fibre and medicines.
Trees act as “drought insurance”, as with their deeper roots they are more likely to yield something in dry years when conventional crops fail. Another crucial role is in recycling nutrients and enriching soils (leguminous trees fix nitrogen with their roots, and all trees produce leaf filter). Trees have specific uses in cities too. They can noticeably affect energy use in modern buildings.
The UN believes the energy savings from trees are enough to justify world-wide tree plantings in cities with high summer temperatures through transpiration, and they reduce noise levels, filter out pollution and reduce residential energy use.
Urban trees save 10 times more carbon annually than rural trees.