On the surface, a tree seems to be rooted in the Earth sometimes providing fruit to living life and shelter for birds & insects. In reality, a lot of the functions of a tree cannot be seen or requires a subtle observation over a period of time.
- Trees integrate and sustain human resource energy; wood for fuel or shelter.
- Forests contain high amounts of water and store within the roots system & trunks/branches/leaves.
Within one tree there is up to 40 acres of available space to store water! That’s a huge amount of surface area for water to travel within.
As rain falls, leaves help to slow down rainfall reducing soil compaction and disperses the water across the land. The drip line of trees is like a slow irrigation systems for it self!
Nutrition comes from decaying organic matter. Tree provide the soil with a huge amount of biomass. Every year deciduous trees loose their leaves in autumn, these leaves feed into the soil where bacteria and fungi break them down to make them available as nutrients for plants and trees.
Mycorrhiza fungi interact with the roots of a tree exchanging nutrition from organic matter in the soil. A fungal web network can span hundreds of kilometres (this is the trees network communication link). Fungus can also help pest control by making certain compounds available for a tree to use, such as, tannin for a bitter tasting leaf.
Nitrogen-fixing plants take nitrogen from the air and store it their roots and make it available in the soil around them.
Nitrogen is essential for plant growth and development and depend mainly on the ammonia & nitrate (combined forms of nitrogen).
Plants interact with microbes like Rhizobium & Frankia when nitrogen-fixing. “The Rhizobium or Bradyrhizobium bacteria colonize the host plant’s root system and cause the roots to form nodules to house the bacteria. The bacteria then begin to fix the nitrogen required by the plant”. Packets of nitrogen are stored on nodules of the root system that when the plant is prunes or dies, nitrogen is released into the surrounding soil.
Plants in the Fabaceae family (Leguminous) such as, alfalfa, beans, clover, cowpeas, lupines, peanut, soybean, and vetches have an important role in nitrogen-fixing and perform very well in doing so.
Decomposition requires nitrogen as a major fuel source. Using pioneer plants (those that are generally hardy, long roots and nitrogen-fixing) to drive a succession process, Chop and drop of their biomass to use as mulch and regeneration of organic matter in soil is highly beneficial within regenerative land practices.
Deciduous trees are big cyclers of nutrients by dropping their leaves every autumn. When nitrogen-fixing plants die, they loose the starch connections with the fungi leading to the roots to die, which add to the next succession cycle.
Leaves are like candy for fungi and bacteria on the ground. After a plant dies, fungi recycle the plants into more simple nutrients, which will mix into the soil and be used by plants. So, the plants can grow and enter the food chain again.
Resilience & Stability
Tree systems offer the most stability over any other type of plants. Even though they take a long time to implement, the benefits are long-lasting so long as they are not destroy (which takes very little time). Utilised with perennials to provide yearly food, we can create a lot of diversity and practical functioning land.
When positioned strategically, tree systems can provide wind protection, increase the native wildlife and can be integrated with agricultural farms. Fruit bearing trees are long lasting and we can obtain a yield. Good examples are, Walnuts, Acorns, Almonds, Chestnuts, Jackfruits trees etc.
Guilds are associations of plants & trees that complement one another. A typical example would be the 3 sisters used by native Americans – tall Corn plants that Beans will grow up and Pumpkins to cover the ground. In the tropics, Avocados, Brasilnut, oil palm and coconut trees with an understory of cacao, coffee and/or ginger plants is a good combination of plants that grow well together.
Trees are very important integral part of ecosystems, providing natural habitat & food for wildlife, nutrition for bacteria and fungal within the soil and giving humans a yield of food & building materials.
If we want to continue to inhabit Earth, then planting trees and learning about their energy interactions within our ecosphere is highly beneficial for our human evolution.