Trees are one of, if not the, greatest natural resource the planet has to offer so it is in all of our interest to protect against deforestation and make sure that forestland is sustainable. There are many steps that we can take to defend trees, but, what natural defences do they have of their own?
Starve and Mast Years
Oak trees are great for the environment, not only do they provide homes for mammals and birds, they also offer a good source of food (acorns) for the smaller mammals like squirrels to eat. This however does cause the Oak tree a problem because it is, roughly, only 1 in 10,000 acorns which actually grow into an Oak.
So how can the trees get around this glutinous problem? Well they remarkably have what is called a “Starve Year” where they only grow and drop a small number of acorns, this in turn starves the mammal population around them. Then, the next year, they have a “Mast Year”, this is where the Oak produces loads of Acorns and they rain down from the trees so that they have more chance of growing while the local mammal population is down (thanks to the previous year).
Along with the nutrients that they get from the soil a tree’s main source of energy is from the sun, so when they are in forests, they are constantly fighting to be taller than those around them to get more sunlight.
This happens to be a problem that Walnut trees have found quite an ingenious solution to. They excrete an agent through their roots into the soil which helps to stunt the growth of other plant life around them. This helps them to fight for the sunlight as they are more likely to be taller an grow quicker than those around them.
A Spot of Weeding
Weeds can cause a problem for trees as they take vital nutrients from the soil the soil which the trees need to survive. Which is where the “Mother of the Forest” comes in to do a spot of gardening.
Beech trees seem to have a bit of a green thumb for dealing with weeds though. When rain drops onto their leaves, the leaves release an agent which reacts with the rain water, this in turn drops down to the forest floor and kills the weeds around the tree.
These are only some of the ways in which trees are constantly defending themselves against natural problems. So, the most we can do is to make sure that we protect them from over cultivation and deforestation ourselves.