Why Should We Care About Trees?
The removal of riparian (land along the stream) vegetation alters the overall ecology and dynamics of the stream. With decreased shade comes an increase in water temperature which in turn decreases the dissolved oxygen content available in the water.
The loss of shade exposes soils to wind and sunlight, which dries the soils. This reduces the water storage capacity of the riparian area. With the loss of vegetation along the streambank, the drier soils, less root systems, comes streambank erosion. Riparian vegetation slows floodwaters by allowing water to soak into the ground, it also traps sediment that would otherwise degrade streams and rivers, thereby helping to maintain stable streambanks and protect downstream property.
Eroding banks contribute to sedimentation and lead to a wide, shallow stream with little habitat value. These factors result in significant reductions in aquatic stream life. Riparian vegetation is a major source of energy and nutrients for stream communities. Overhanging riparian vegetation keeps streams cool, this is especially important for trout populations. Riparian buffers provide valuable habitat for wildlife. In addition to providing food and cover they are an important corridor, or travel way, for a variety of wildlife.
The restoration of riparian buffers improves water quality to prevent sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and other pollutants from reaching a stream. Trees are also major carbon storers, which is incredibly important given our changing climate.
Not only are there many environmental benefits to having trees, but there are also a lot of social/cultural benefits. A large portion of tourism in Vermont and income for Vermonters is based around trees. Sugar maples provide us with our signature flavor, maple syrup. In the summer people come to visit our lush green forests, and in the fall they come to Vermont to witness our colorful foliage. Not only that, but studies have shown that being in nature has benefits for both our mental and physical health!