A simple tree is the answer to a complex problem

The New Year has been crackered into life, even if a trifle early in Newcastle, and we are settling into sustaining ourselves work-wise once again. 

The biggest moon of the year has flooded our streets, a reminder of what will be the norm as the sea level continues to rise, and the Blue Moon is just around the corner. My thoughts turn to the role plants can play in removing the blanket of carbon dioxide that is keeping our Earth warmer and warmer. 

The simplistic equation of photosynthesis is one every household should have blazoned on the fridge, carbon dioxide plus water equals sugar plus oxygen. Logic says if we plant enough trees then we can decrease the level of carbon in the atmosphere. We just then have to turn the trees into coal in the ground before being oxidised back to carbon dioxide. 

Technologies exist to do just this. Unfortunately, Australia and the world are just not planting enough trees. Start a tradition of planting a birthday tree for every family member every year.

Looking a little deeper, trees provide a huge range of ecosystem services to us. Trees provide provisioning services such as food, fresh water, fuel, fibre and medicines; regulating services such as weather, flood and climate control; cultural services such as recreation, education and spiritual wellbeing; and supporting services such as soil formation, nutrient and gas cycling that maintain the conditions for life on this planet. 

Visit the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, Ash Island, Blackbutt Reserve and Fernleigh Track or if you are going south then the Australian Botanic Gardens at Mount Annan to see the plants ecosystem services at work and on display.  I commend to you Tree Crops: a permanent agriculture by J R Smith published in 1929, but still relevant today.

Professor Tim Roberts, Director Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle.