You don’t have to be an environmental enthusiast to know how beneficial trees are for the environment. Every high school science class speaks about the critical role played by trees in the production of oxygen. Needless to say, planting a tree in your yard and motivating others to grow trees is one of the best things you can do as a responsible citizen of the planet.
But have you ever wondered how trees make oxygen? This article breaks down the scientific process and also looks at the various ways in which trees improve the environment.
Photosynthesis: The Most Valuable Chemical Reaction in the World
Every living organism on earth needs photosynthesis to receive oxygen. In simple terms, photosynthesis is defined as a process where green leaves take in carbon dioxide and water available in the air and the soil and utilize sunlight to convert these compounds into their food, which is sugar. Oxygen, a by-product of the reaction, is released by the leaves back into the air. It’s estimated that photosynthesis carried out by a single large tree is sufficient to provide a day’s oxygen supply for up to four people.
But photosynthesis cannot be carried out by other parts of a plant or a tree, such as the stem or the roots. Chloroplasts of the leaves are responsible for conducting photosynthesis, as they contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a photosynthetic pigment that gives leaves a green color. It also traps the energy from sunlight and converts it into sugar molecules while releasing oxygen.
While there is complex chemistry behind photosynthesis, one can look at photosynthesis as a two-step reaction:
1. Light-Dependent Reactions
As the name suggests, these reactions depend on sunlight. In other words, this is the reaction where light energy is converted into chemical energy.
To the naked eye, sunlight may just appear to be just a source of bright light. But in reality, the rays contain electromagnetic radiation. This radiation also has a specific wavelength, which is absorbed by the green pigments in plants and trees.
When the reaction starts, the pigments capture a certain quantity of light energy, called a photon, at a given time. When the photon reaches the chlorophyll, it reacts with the electron present in the chlorophyll. Chlorophyll also converts the light energy into ATP and NADPH molecules.
As the chlorophyll molecule loses the electron, a water molecule is split to compensate for the loss. This releases oxygen in the membrane-bound compartments of the leaves. Tiny openings on the leaves, called stomata, help to release the oxygen molecules into the atmosphere. All living organisms use oxygen for cellular respiration. They breathe out carbon dioxide, which is in turn absorbed by the leaves from the air.
You may have noticed that the leaves of certain trees start losing their green color during the fall and winter seasons. Such trees are incapable of carrying out photosynthesis. However, the green stems of deciduous trees can perform the same action provided the temperature is warm enough. Interestingly, such stems utilize the carbon dioxide produced by the tree itself instead of absorbing it from the air.
2. Light-Independent Reactions
These reactions do not require the presence of sunlight. The primary goal is to harness the energy from the ATP and NADPH molecules to produce carbohydrate molecules from carbon dioxide absorbed from the air. The carbohydrate molecules serve as food for trees and plants.
How Do Trees Improve the Environment?
Apart from producing oxygen, which is vital for the survival of life, there are several other ways in which trees improve the environment. These include:
Trees help in the conservation of energy by reducing air conditioning requirements by up to 50 percent. Apart from helping you save on your utility bills, they also reduce the emission of harmful gases and protect the environment.
- The leaves of trees can trap various poisonous gases, such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and sulfur. This serves as a natural detox for the environment and keeps it clean.
The openings on the surface of leaves help to release water vapor into the air and produce a cooling effect. As a result, trees planted on streets can bring down the temperature of your surroundings.
- Trees are the most effective tool in our fight against climate change. In fact, just an acre of trees can absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide that is produced when you drive a car for 26,000 miles.
- Trees reduce flooding risks and prevent soil erosion.
- They provide shade to animals, birds, and human beings.
- The leaves on the trees also carry out a process called transpiration. This results in the release of water molecules in the air and helps in maintaining the optimum atmospheric moisture levels.
Plant Your Own Tree
Now that you have learned about how trees make oxygen and the multitude of benefits trees offer, are you also keen to plant trees in your yard or garden? Planting a tree is a great investment, provided you’re careful about your choice. Not all trees are created equal, so choosing a species that can thrive in your environment is essential. So before you start digging holes to give a home to a new tree, reach out to an arborist to discuss your options. They will consider several factors, including the soil type and hardiness, proximity to underground pipes, location of electric lines, and so forth before recommending a tree that suits your needs.
You can also get in touch with our team at Mr. Tree Services in Portland, Oregon. We’ll be happy to talk with you and discuss what kind of trees you can consider. Once your trees mature, you’ll also need to schedule periodic pruning sessions to keep them in shipshape. We have a team of professionals that carries out methodical pruning to remove dead or decaying branches. No matter what you need, you can rely on us when it comes to caring for your trees. We’d love to help you.