Planting Trees for Our One World Ocean
By Stephanie van Ryzin
Curb appeal, privacy screening, wildlife habitat, the list goes on and on when thinking about the benefits of planting trees. But did you know that planting trees can also benefit the ocean? In fact, planting trees on your property just might be the easiest thing you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint for our one world Ocean.
How Does Planting Trees Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
It all has to do with temperature.
According to NASA, the temperature on Earth has risen 1℃ (or 2°F) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has happened in the last 50 years. And while 2°F might not sound like much, it is. To climate scientists, a few degrees in temperature change is a big deal. Remember when North America was covered in a massive layer of ice only 20,000 years ago? That was a mere five-degree decrease in temperature from our current global average. What mystery awaits us with a 2-degree increase in temperature? We’re about to find out.
In short, this rise in temperature is caused by additional greenhouse gases being added to the atmosphere as a result of human activity. And more specifically, our dependency on fossil fuel.
When burned, fossil fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat from the sun that would otherwise radiate back into space. An increase in greenhouse gases means an increase in Earth’s temperature and the oceans right along with it.
Our One World Ocean Is Taking the Heat!
Our one world Ocean is responsible for absorbing 93% of the heat trapped within the atmosphere. This means that the majority of the temperature increase on Earth has been channeled directly into the ocean. Unfortunately thanks to the laws of thermodynamics, this heat doesn’t disappear. Water is unique in that it has a very high heat capacity, meaning it is able to absorb a large amount of heat before increasing in temperature.
The ocean has been quite literally taking the heat for a while and is rising at an alarming rate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC’s) Fifth Assessment Report is informative. It explains that the ocean has been consistently warming since 1971. This increase in temperature is causing massive devastation to our oceans’ ecosystems. Coral reefs are dying, glaciers are melting and Earth’s climate is changing.
Planting trees reduces carbon dioxide, which of course takes some heat off the ocean.
How do Rising Temperatures Impact Ocean Ecosystems?
Like all ecosystems, slight changes in environmental conditions can have significant impacts. If you’ve ever been responsible for maintaining an aquarium then you’ve experienced this first hand. Slight changes in temperature, oxygen, or nutrients can have devastating effects. Buy a betta fish without getting a water heater, and chances are it will get sick and die. Didn’t get that bubbler for your guppies? They probably won’t last too long. Forgot to change the water again last weekend? You’re probably going to be waking up to some dead fish.
The ocean is like a giant aquarium that we are slowly heating up.
Warmer ocean temperatures lead to decreased oxygen levels and changes in salinity. Changing the temperature, salt, and oxygen in an aquatic environment threatens aquatic life. Each species of fish has its own specific thermal death point. A few degrees past this threshold and the fish will become stressed and die. For some species, a few degrees either up or down from their optimal temperature can be the difference between life and death. Chinook Salmon eggs, for example, thrive in temperatures of 60.8℉ (16℃) but will die at 64.4℉ (18℃). That’s only a slight change in temperature.
Scientists are already observing shifts in fish populations. This is because fish are searching for cooler temperatures. A 2019 study in the Gulf of Mexico found that out of 150 species of fish, 90 have shifted their range northward towards cooler temperatures. Movements like this also cause predatory animals to migrate. An influx of predators will create an imbalance in ecosystems worldwide. The absence of predators in warmer waters will do the same.
Ready to reduce your carbon footprint yet? Planting trees is helpful to our one world Ocean.
How Can We Slow This Increase in Ocean Temperature?
More carbon dioxide equals more heat being absorbed by the ocean. Any efforts we can make to reduce our carbon footprint will help to slow this warming process. We need to spare the ocean from having to absorb even more excess heat.
Trees are a simple and natural answer to this problem. As they grow, trees absorb and store carbon in their tissue, therefore removing it from the atmosphere.
To review an early lesson in biology, plants convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose. This amazing process happens in the presence of water and sunlight. Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is one approach to slowing the process of global warming.
While all plants are able to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, trees are able to remove more than other plants. That’s because of their larger size and extensive root structure. At its most productive stage, a 10-year-old tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon per year.
Not only will planting trees on your property help to offset some of your carbon emissions, but it can also help you to emit fewer. According to the US Forest Service, strategically placed trees can provide shade to your house in the summer and a wind barrier in the winter. That can save you up to 50% off your energy bill. Less energy spent on heating and cooling means less greenhouse gas emissions and more money in your pocket. The perfect win-win.
Trees are especially important in urban areas where they help to remove pollution from water making its way back to the ocean.
How Else Can You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
The average United States citizen producing around 16 tons of carbon annually. So, it would require 667 trees to offset the emissions of each person. And while it may not be realistic for everyone to plant a few hundred trees on their property, there are many companies out there that are happy to help.
Buy From Companies Who Plant Trees.
Several companies ranging from apparel to skincare plant trees when you buy their products. The next time you are considering adding to your wardrobe, why not choose from a company that will plant a few trees? A simple search on your favorite search engine will offer options to consider.
Support the Periwinkle Creek Restoration Project.
Looking to make a tax-deductible donation to a great restoration project? The Periwinkle Creek Restoration Project is currently working to plant 50,000 trees in Albany, Oregon. This project is helping to restore vegetation along this vital passageway for Salmon populations. They benefit as they make their way from the ocean to their spawning grounds. Planting trees near the river bank not only help to absorb carbon emissions but also provide shade that cools the water temperature.
Be Mindful In All You Do.
Even something as simple as surfing the web can help you to plant more trees. The search engine Ecosia is a free extension you can add to your browser and has planted over 120 million trees and counting.
Like Everything Else in the 21st Century, Get Help From an App!
And if you really want to get serious about your personal contribution to the climate crisis, there are several apps that can help. They help you to track your personal carbon footprint and offer suggestions on how to reduce it.
It’s important to remember that even small actions matter. Every time you make a purchase you are investing in the company you are buying from and what that company stands for.
The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The second best time is today. It’s only one tree, said 7 billion people.
Author Bio: Stephanie van Lee is a mom of two and works as a Special Education/Science Teacher full time. In her spare time, you may find her digging in the garden or building sandcastles at the beach.