How amazing is this world we live in? From breathtaking mountain views to fascinating cultures and cute, fuzzy beings. We have a lot to appreciate about animals, other people, and the environment. Even unique tree species have the ability to blow our minds.
There are an estimated 100,000 tree species in existence today. Sadly, due to threats such as deforestation, acid rain (caused by pollution), introduction of invasive species, and climate change, forests are disappearing along with animals that depend on them for survival. According to Greenpeace International, in a 10,000 year time period, 25 percent of forest destruction occurred within the last 30 years. At this rate we are losing species every day, including thousands of animal species that rely on forests for their survival.
Trees are not sentient beings, but they provide us the oxygen we breathe, clean soil, clean air, control noise pollution, act as carbon sinks, prevent soil erosion, and offer homes to wildlife we care about. Let’s allow these examples of amazing species listed below to inspire us to take action to save their forests!
1. Dragon Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari)
Believe it or not, this evergreen is not the tree you saw in a Dr. Seuss book – it’s real and is named after its dark red resin. Historically, the dragon blood tree has been significant to people and animals of Socotra for the small, fleshy berries it provides. The tree is beautifully adapted to its arid environment of granite mountains and limestone plateaus with its unique shape, channeling moisture from its leaves to its root systems. The dark red resin has also been used for many traditional medicinal purposes such as being a gastro-intestinal remedy, a liquid bandage (coagulant) for use on skin, a fever reducer, and an insect bite/sting alleviator.
Threats: Classified as vulnerable on the IUCN list, the dragon blood Tree is threatened by human activities such as tourism and wood industry. Furthermore, global climate change is contributing to the islands of Socotra drying out, which is believed to be a major cause for the decline in these trees, since little seedlings don’t like the dry climate.
Conservation: The dragon blood tree is considered an “umbrella species” (ha! – literally with its appearance), meaning that it benefits other plants and animals. Thus, this species is given some protection under international commercial trade, but it still needs our help!
2. Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree (Eucalyptus deglupta)
Indigenous to islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the rainbow eucalyptus can grow up to 200 feet tall! And someone didn’t paint these trees, they have naturally flaky bark with layers of amazing rainbow colors. These trees are used for timber, pulp production, essential oil, and firewood. This species is also important for reforestation for areas eroded by landslides.
Threats: No threats are currently being recognized, but let’s make sure they maintain a non-vulnerable status!
Conservation: Since there are no severe threats affecting this species at this time, conservation efforts have not been reported for the protection of the rainbow eucalyptus.
3. Fony Baobab Tree (Adansonia rubrostipa)
A tree that can do a hand stand?! Actually … this baobab is not upside down! Found in Madagascar, these baobab trees can live for several thousand years unless humans change that. A number of animal species, including humans enjoy the fony baobab’s delicious fruits and seeds and as the dominant tree species in many of Madagascar’s deciduous forests, it is regarded as a valuable resource.
Threats: Uh oh, the baobab is listed as “near threatened” according to the IUCN Red list. Habitat loss due to clearance for pastures (one of the reasons Green Monsters avoid animal consumption) and charcoal production are the greatest current threats to fony baobab populations.
Conservation: Many of these trees have been documented to exist in protected national parks, though people will sometimes knock down baobabs to access their tasty fruits … which obviously doesn’t help these forests. Let’s spread the word to others about respect for trees!
4. Sandbox Tree (Hura crepitans)
Spikes! Yikes – but that’s not all this tree is special for! Native to tropical areas of North and South America, the sandbox tree is quite serious about survival … can you blame it? Not only is this tree covered in unfriendly, sharp thorns with toxic bark and leaves, the fruit that grows on the tree literally explodes like a hand grenade, sending seeds flying at speeds up to 150 mph! Interestingly, the sap within the tree’s bark has been used as a remedy for leprosy and wildlife, such as macaws, are adapted to consuming the tree’s toxic fruits before it is even ripe.
Threats: The Sandbox tree is unfortunately listed as endangered in parts of its native habitat due to being used for timber, though it has become invasive in other areas of the world such as Tanzania in Africa.
Conservation: Perhaps this tree is so scary that no one cares to be concerned for its conservation (a conservation status is not applicable by the IUCN), but we Green Monsters care for all life – even those terrifyingly desperate to survive.
Protect the Trees – Protect Their Forests – Protect Life!
From changing your diet to learning about deforestation to adopting a zero waste lifestyle and even supporting sea otter conservation, there are thousands of ways you can help trees. You have the opportunity to make a difference in global environment protection even from the comfort of your own home. And guess what … you will probably benefit yourself in the process of contributing to save the world. Take a look at how products such as meat, soy, corn, and palm oil are affecting forests and how our simple, daily habits are destroying the environment. We need to change our ways. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “we need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” Save the trees, please!
(And just for fun, check out more amazing species below.)
Bristlecone Pine Tree
Hyperion Redwood Tree
Costa Rican Banyon Tree
Japanese Red Maple Tree
Lead image source: James Verster/Flickr