Trees For Basic Needs is an informative website about the gifts of trees which sustain and enrich human life. This website is also home to a tree nursery and is connected with broader webs, emerging from a temperate-climate context. This is not intended to be a blog or information repository; this website is intended to inspire and celebrate trees for basic needs.
The Gifts of Trees
The gifts of trees are stewarded by nature-connected peoples around the world, as has been the case for many millennia and continues today. This work is led by first peoples with a sense of reciprocity. May we begin by giving thanks to our fellow tree stewards of all times.
This short web page aims to share inspiration and general approaches about how trees can and do fulfill human needs in mutually benefit 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.
To better understand the gifts of trees, let’s use a scientific lens. 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.
Much can be said about these gifts, more than a web page or major scientific project can fit. While all ecosystem services relate to our basic livelihood on Earth, this page is an introduction to the most tangible category of ecosystem service. Below is a summary of provisional benefits trees offer for human needs, organized as the six F’s of forestry:
- fodder (food for animals),
- farmaceuticals (many, if not most, useful chemicals and medicines are derived from forests), and
- fun (related to other ecosystem services like culture and biodiversity).
The summary below includes specific examples and approaches to intimately enjoy and reciprocate these gifts. Zooming in on your context, may you find actionable ways to live in mutual benefit with trees. With thanks.
Trees Provide. . .
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 (as in granola or pasta), 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 energy all the time, and much of our subsistence and resilience revolves around the point where energy, water, and food meet. Food growing, distribution, and processing requires energy and water. Water purification and plumbing requires energy. Energy requires water and food (or other substantial sources that can be traced back to the sun).
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.
Animal agriculture is ancient. While it can be controversial, humans intentionally grazing animals is an older practice than permanent settlements and has been a core part of how most of our ancestors inhabited land. In those age-old managed cases and in the wild, animals have habits that maintain a balance with their environment. Modern ecological approaches of animal agriculture aim to mimic those habits and that balance. As a simplified example: rotational grazing mimics the habit of herds to intensively graze all grasses in one area and moving on when it becomes inconveniently short to eat, not returning to that grazed area until it regenerates, and ultimately improving biodiversity and soil health through this interaction.
Trees in agriculture (referred to as agroforestry) can include trees in harmony with grazing animals (referred to as silvopasture, with silvo meaning forest and pasture meaning grazed grassland). Consider the landscapes where humans first began grazing animals: savannas, woodlands. …
[This page is a work in progress as of Summer 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.