Conservationists engaged in protecting and rehabilitating woodlands know that deciding which trees to protect and introduce is complex. Some organisms may be great fits for specific climates or regions, while others may have a mixture of qualities that make them too weak or too strong for a particular region, making them poor choices for projects promoting long-term sustainability and health.
It’s important for graduates of sustainability training to understand the various reasons that tree selection matters for different regions, environments, and purposes. Here are a few important points.
Pros with Environmental Degrees Know That Trees Must Suit Their Environment
The perception of non-native species is that they are an ecological evil, outcompeting native organisms and taking over the environment. However, it is incorrect to say that non-native plants are always wrong—or indeed that native plants are always right—for a given environment.
Though a tree might be native to a particular region, it might only grow in specific environments within that region—on hills, by marshes, etc.—and will not thrive in different environments in the area. Attempting to plant them in different environments would therefore be a waste of effort and money. This poses a challenge when people live in environments without naturally reproducing indigenous trees but want to have trees in their city or on their property.
Fortunately, when indigenous trees are not an option for a given location, carefully selected outsiders can be a safe choice, provided it is confirmed that they pose little risk of spreading dramatically. By completing a natural resource management degree program, you will gain a strong understanding of how to consider landscape when introducing trees to an environment, and will be able to make recommendations that are sensible, economical, and environmentally responsible.
Trees Exert a Powerful Influence on Their Environment
Trees are not mere passengers in the places they are found, but rather play an active role in shaping their home. A recent Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution study of trees in urban parks shows that different trees can increase or decrease soil pH levels, which can affect the kinds of plants that will be able to grow in soil near the trees. Many plants only grow in soils within a particular pH range, and so may rely on the presence of nearby trees to keep their environments habitable.
Perhaps more importantly, the same study revealed that trees also affect the level of carbon and nitrogen stored in nearby soil, which could present a great opportunity for professionals with Natural Resource Management Master’s degrees to contribute to the development and protection of natural carbon sinks. Evergreens, for example, were found to correlate to retention of higher concentrations of carbon in nearby soil than deciduous trees or grasses. If you take on a career in environmental policymaking, you might therefore want to prioritize the inclusion of evergreens in urban green spaces, as a method of helping clean up the environment.
With carbon-related climate change already creating distress in ecosystems around the planet, understanding the ways that the planet’s organisms can help in the mission to capture and store the massive amounts of carbon in the air is a priority for environmental scientists. As trees are generally great at helping capture and store carbon, understanding that there are some trees that are best for these purposes is an incredibly valuable skill for environmental professionals to have.
Are you interested in pursuing an environmental science career?
Contact Unity College to learn more about our online environmental degrees.