The gifts of trees are stewarded by nature-connected people around the world, as has been the case for many millennia and continues today, led by first peoples with a sense of reciprocity. May we begin by giving thanks to our fellow tree stewards of all times.
No one tree can provide for all our needs, and no one tree alone makes a forest. Yet a forest does not exist without its countless individual trees, each expressing itself as an inter-connected individual. This is one of many lessons trees know. The book of nature is open to share knowledge of self, if one will listen as an individual part of the whole. May peace be upon you.
The Gifts of Trees
The gifts of trees are called ecosystem services by scientists, organized in four broad types of benefits that humans need and want from nature:
- direct provisions such as food, fiber, and drinking water,
- subtler regulations as in moderating stormwater or heat waves,
- ecosystem-supporting functions including the creation of soil and supporting pollinators, and
- diverse cultural benefits that connect oneself with that which sustains oneself.
This web page aims to share inspiration and high-level approaches about how trees can and do fulfill human needs in mutually beneficial ways with the source(s) of such fulfillment. Ecological mutualism is an ethic that can guide one’s relationship with trees, so to improve oneself and the source of one’s improvement, while generating many co-benefits. Reciprocity fosters mutually-beneficial connections.
Below is a summary of provisional benefits trees offer for human needs, organized as the six F’s of forestry. This summary includes specific examples and approaches to intimately enjoy and reciprocate these gifts. Zooming in on your context, may you find ways to live in mutual benefit with trees.
[This page is a work in progress as of Fall 2020.]
From fence posts to paper, pallets to toothpicks, homes and furniture to skyscrapers or mulch: forests provide a variety of fiber products that fulfill essential needs and improve a people’s potential quality of life.
What furniture or structural needs could be fulfilled with non-toxic forest products? Is your home made of wood?
See if you can meet a simple need with wood fiber: a tactile experience with paper for reading & writing, willow-woven baskets for collecting or carrying, pine bird houses to beautify and support healthy ecosystems, a hardwood home or furniture, roundwood outbuildings, hazel hedges, or heartwood fence posts.
Food (for humans)
Fats, proteins, and carbs – the main components of sustenance for humans are all available from tree crops. Hazelnuts are rich in healthy fats, nicknamed ‘soy on trees’ for their potential to fill the oily niche that is largely occupied by monocultures of soybeans. Hazels also provide a good amount of protein, while other nuts – walnuts, pine nuts – can be dense protein sources. Chestnuts are nicknamed ‘the bread tree’ or ‘corn on trees’ for the sweet, starchy carbohydrates they provide.
As you snack and shop and eat meals, look to trees for staple nutritional needs: nuts as parts of meals, nut flours for bread and biscuits, nut oils for fats, sap syrups for sweeteners, forest-raised animals (as in silvopasture – see Fodder below) for protein and fat, and other forest-based or forest-friendly products. Sponges made of walnut husk, meals made of walnut meat, cookware made of wood and metal. Trees are shelf-stable gifts to diets of good relationships that grow better with time.
Energy is everything, in more ways than one. As humans we use it all the time, and for many people in temperate climates, fuel for heating is one’s largest carbon footprint and fossil fuel necessity. Trees managed well offer regenerative, living fuel with numerous co-benefits.
Dense hardwoods grown over the decades, harvested using methods that mimic ecological disturbance regimes. A wind fall or a 30-year rotation silviculture perspective? Firewood: the fuel that warms you up 3+ times (harvest, moving, splitting, and burning). Or if you prefer wood that is easy to cut and handle, with no splitting needed?
Hazelnut coppices, cut each decade, offer nicely sized hardwood fuel, potentially renewing for thousands of years offering fountains of wood and life while roots grow greater. Poles and shells are energy dense fuels, and husks can be processed into industrial bioenergy feedstock.
Wood gasification, biochar production, and efficient wood stoves, boilers, masonry ovens and rocket mass heaters offer a source of warmth, energy and more, that literally grows on trees.
[This page is a work in progress as of Spring 2021.]
More notes will be added about how trees can and do provide for basic needs in mutually beneficial ways.
Pathways for people to put this information into action will also be included, in the form of general ideas that apply to a variety of contexts.
For now, may the force of forest succession be with you.
Fodder (for non-human animals)
Farmaceuticals (and chemicals)
Fun (and culture)
These six F’s of forestry represent a small set of the gifts of trees, which are benefits thought of scientifically as provision ecosystem services.