The life of a tree

May 30, 2012 Petri Heinonen


The small seedling of a tree to be planted in the forest sprouts in the nursery garden. The seedling is cherished with care, but is taken to the real forest while it is still very young. Young trees become independent at a very early age, but still receive some care in the forest too. Forestry is necessary to ensure good conditions for seedlings and trees to grow.

22 May was the International Day for Biological Diversity. UPM planted seedlings in the forest with children and young people on this day. Both the children and the seedlings will continue their lives after the planting. The children will go to school, graduate in a profession and eventually start their careers. The seedlings have a short carefree infancy: they start their work to the benefit of mankind right after planting. 
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This is the start of carbon dioxide binding that will continue for decades.
So what can a small seedling do that is so good for us? Few of us ever stop to think that a growing tree provides a lot benefits for us all, but in fact it offers an awful lot as far as the ecosystem is concerned.
The tree will use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow and it will start binding CO2 as soon as it has been planted. During its lifetime, a single tree will remove around a thousand kilograms of CO2 from the air.The actual amount of CO2 bound by a tree depends on its individual characteristics, but it is in the order of 1000 kg, i.e. 300 tons in a forest the size of a hectare. That is quite a lot.
The tree grows and loses branches as it becomes bigger. The entire foliage of a deciduous tree is renewed every twelve months, all the needles of a pine every three to four years and the needles of a spruce every six to seven years. Fallen branches and leaves or needles turn into new soil. The tree takes something from the air to make new soil. There would be a hole under the tree if this were not so; the tree must get its building materials from somewhere. Nutrients rotate.
Trees create a forest and forest vegetation will grow under them – mosses, grasses, hay and sprigs. Trees are in symbiosis with the fungi of the forest: the fungi get nutrients from the tree and then assist the tree in obtaining water, for example. Trees turn the forest into a genuine cornucopia. Without the trees, there would be no berries, edible mushrooms or game. These benefits are there for all of us to enjoy in forests everywhere. 
Päivi Salpakivi-Salomaa (on the left) and Kari Airaksinen of UPM showing children how a seedling is planted.
Trees are the key species in the forest community because most of the growing mass of the forest consists of trees. Trees provide food for a huge number of herbivores that in turn are food for predators and parasites. All species become food for decomposers after their death. This means that all the other species of the forest ecosystem depend on trees.
The water in forest brooks is clean and there is usually water all year round, even in the smallest of streams. Trees retain rainwater, and it will not immediately end up in flowing bodies of water. Trees maintain a humid microclimate in the forest and filter water so that the surface water and groundwater remain clean. Without trees, floods would be much more violent after rainfall, and fresh water would not be as clean – it would be tainted with soil and nutrients. 
Lingonberry, moss, heather, blueberry, lichen... Biodiversity never ends. 
Trees growing in urban areas reduce the noise caused by traffic. The difference is clear when you compare traffic noise in the winter and summer: cars do not seem as loud when there are leaves on the trees. Trees also filter impurities and pollution from the air and generate oxygen. All of these are important benefits that cost nothing to us. The services offered by trees are cheap.
Many a storm would have caused much more devastation if it were not for trees protecting residential areas. Falling trees naturally cause some damage too, but the damage caused by a storm could be much worse if there were no trees.


"A forest is an “ecosystem package”

 where the woods are producing soil

 and oxygen, and filtering water.

A forest is also a treasure chest

 of delicacy for mankind

 and it helps avoiding stress."

Petri Heinonen 
Forests also protect us from a variety of climate changes. For example, there is a specified protected forest zone in Lapland to prevent the Arctic tundra from spreading. The protected zone is meticulously cared for so that the treeless tundra cannot spread south. In warm areas, trees protect people from spreading deserts and make agriculture possible, whereas trees growing in mountainous areas protect people from landslides and avalanches.
On top of all this, trees give us pleasure. You can rest both your eyes and your mind in a forest. Most Finns go to forests to hike, wander about, pick berries and mushrooms, or hunt. All these hobbies, with the exception of hunting, do not cost a thing. Walking in a forest is relaxing and you will feel good afterwards, even if you did not find lots of berries or mushrooms. Stress and the forest do not go well together.
All this means that during its lifetime, a tree offers us plenty of benefits that we often overlook. The life of a tree is the tree of human life. Our lives would be much harder, if not even impossible, without trees.
The wonderful greenness of an oak's foliage in the summertime.
Amazingly enough, trees are of benefit to us even after they are removed from the forest. The benefits will start costing us something at this point, and the products we buy are familiar to all of us: trees are turned into plank boards, firewood, plywood, clothes, bandages, medicine and energy. Trees will not leave any waste behind; they will only leave food for the next generation of trees and other life forms. Trees regenerate, and the products manufactured from wood can be recycled and finally burned to make bioenergy.
UPM planted trees with schoolchildren and other stakeholders on the United Nations' International Day for Biological Diversity, 22 May. Trees were planted at a variety of events in several countries. These events were arranged to convey the message I was trying to give you above.
During its lifetime, a single tree will remove around a thousand kilograms of CO2 from the air.
The main tree planting event took place in Espoo in cooperation with the virtual school ENO-Environment Online© and the city of Espoo. Among others, more than a dozen ambassadors posted to Finland took part in the event. At the same time, 1000 seedlings were handed out to local residents and tourists in Esplanadipuisto Park in Helsinki city centre.
Planting a tree is a green action that will secure our future.
30 May 2012
Petri Heinonen
Environmental Manager, Forestry, UPM 

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