Five Ways Forests Benefit People and Our Planet

By T-Mobile Stories & The Nature ConservancyApril 22, 2021
© Diane Cook and Len Jenshel courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is on a mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. In support of this mission, T-Mobile has contributed over $1.2M to TNC while unlocking an additional $600,000+ in matching grants and customer donations since 2018.   

In celebration of Earth Day this year, T-Mobile recently shared details on its continued approach to taking care of the environment, including a new $300,000 donation to TNC’s forest restoration and preservation efforts. Learn more about the Plant a Billion TreesThe Family Forest Carbon Program, and the Living with Fire projects:  

Forests are one of the most important ecosystems on earth — here are five reasons why: 

1. Climate Change Warriors: Forests help us fight against climate change. 

It’s well-established that healthy forests absorb the carbon in the atmosphere that contributes to climate change. In fact, trees are made of roughly 50% carbon! Although the exact amount of carbon pulled from the atmosphere varies widely based on environmental factors ranging from topography to temperature to soil texture, in places like the central Appalachians, each acre of forest can sequester around 2-3 metric tons of carbon each year.  

For millions of years, trees have proven their ability to sequester and store carbon. Protecting and restoring forests can help tackle climate change have a monumental impact on the health of our planet.


2. Thirst Quencher: Forests filter your water, making your drinking supply cleaner and more reliable. 

From the tree canopy all the way down to root systems, forests play a critical role in cleaning, storing and protecting our water. Forests can act as natural sponges and filters, preventing sediment and nutrients from polluting water supplies and then slowly releasing the water back into waterways and underground aquifers. This can lead to higher quality water in a city’s watersheds. In the U.S., more than 50% of our water supply comes from rainfall captured and filtered through forest land.  

3. A Breath of Fresh Air: Forests clean the air so we can breathe more easily. 

Trees remove the kind of air pollution that is most dangerous to our lungs: particulate matter. In cities, urban forests help filter these unhealthy particles from the air, helping residents enjoy cleaner air. One study that looked at air pollution benefits alone found that urban trees remove enough particulate matter to reduce annual health costs for populations by amounts ranging from $1.1 million in Syracuse, N.Y., to $60.1 million in NYC. 

It’s been said that city trees are the hardest working trees in America, providing immeasurable benefits to growing urban populations. By absorbing harmful particulate matter and providing shade and cooling, urban trees help us breathe easier and stay cooler on hot days, and they support healthier lifestyles.

Rachel Holmes, Urban Forestry Strategist, The Nature Conservancy

4. Like a Shot of Serotonin: Trees boost our mental health while raising our physical health. 

A healthy tree can lead to a healthy you and me. Time in nature — like a walk among the trees in a city park — correlates with a drop in anxiety and depression. The good news: it doesn’t take a lot of time in nature for these soothing powers to kick in. You may have felt the benefits from a short walk or hike in your neighborhood. We’re drawn to green spaces, and for good reason.  

Access to nearby green space also contributes to better physical health by encouraging us to move around and exercise. Because we move around more when we have access to trees and parks, nature can help lower rates of obesity. 

5. Home Sweet Home: Forests give a home to the wildlife we love. 

A single tree can provide a vital habitat for countless species. An intact forest can do even more, creating a home for some of the most diverse and resilient webs of life on the planet. A great diversity of plant and animal species make up the longleaf pine forests along the southeastern U.S., but we have an important role to play in keeping these habitats healthy for its residents. Controlled burns can be an integral part of a healthy forest ecosystem, as competing trees and shrubs can clog up the open grasslands and block out sunlight. These carefully planned efforts help recycle nutrients, thin out overgrown brush and ultimately improve habitats for native plants and wildlife. 

TNC’s Living with Fire program works with a wide array of partners to conserve the health of our forests, bring our natural areas back into balance, and transform communities into places where people are able to co-exist with fire rather than fighting it at every turn. In addition to restoring biodiversity, controlled burns also help prevent uncharacteristically severe wildfires like those we saw in the western U.S. in 2020.

Marek Smith, North America Fire Director, The Nature Conservancy

Image credits (in order): Devan King, Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, Skip Pidney - courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.