Trees - for Now and for the Future

Sunday 12th of January 2020

The name of the website where these blogs are being posted is Trees by Water. That name was chosen because it suggests growing to maturity in a healthy way. The first blog on this site gives a few ways that we can look at the symbolism of both trees and water.

Trees standing next to water are an image which can equally be easily related in practical ways to our burgeoning awareness of issues we are facing in relation to climate. Tree-roots, especially during the growing season, soak up large quantities of water and may reduce the risk of flooding (something that we can tell is increasing in the British climate) in certain contexts. Those same roots can help to bind soil and make it less likely that valuable soil will be washed away during heavy rainfall. I recently heard about a slightly more tangential aspect of trees’ potential role in these types of scenarios. Where beavers have been re-introduced to the United Kingdom, somewhere they used to be native, they use trees to build dams. These dams and the associated wetlands slow the flow of water. They can absorb significant quantities of rainwater and make flooding less likely further downstream.

I should perhaps add that there are many places within the UK where some degree of flooding is part of the natural life-cycle of rivers and streams and the land next to them. Strangely, we seem to have come to the conclusion that we don’t therefore need to avoid them as places to build on and we continue to add new housing in these settings. Trees reflected in flood water can make a beautiful picture - people’s homes much less so.

Trees themselves are often mentioned as the most immediate, effective and natural form of “carbon sink”. Even when I was first told about photosynthesis, getting on for fifty years ago, we already had a sense that we were altering our environment through human activity. Fortunately, we are now becoming more conscious of what we can do to avoid or mitigate that effect or even to create a positive impact. Planting trees which will absorb carbon dioxide, as well as severely reducing the carbon dioxide which we produce, is being talked about more and more as part of the solution to the situation in which we find ourselves.