Many of us know that trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, but did you know that, in one growing season, a single tree produces the amount of oxygen that 10 people breathe in a year? Or that one acre of trees can remove 13 tons of dust and gases from the air each year?

If you’re not planning to plant a tree in the days ahead (or be involved in the planting of one), at least take a moment to think about how important trees are.

Friday, April 5, is Missouri’s state Arbor Day – a day when trees are in the spotlight. This is actually the first of two Arbor Days in Missouri. Missouri’s state Arbor Day is always the first Friday of April. National Arbor Day is always celebrated on the last Friday in April, which this year will be April 26.

If you’re up on your Arbor Day history, you know Arbor Day dates back to its initial celebration in Nebraska in 1872. (If you’re really knowledgeable of your Arbor Day facts, you’ll remember the 1976 cartoon “It’s Arbor Day Charlie Brown” – a show that included one of the few occasions that Charlie Brown’s baseball team actually won a game.)

Trees are usually appreciated for their aesthetic value and for the important roles they play as wildlife habitat. While these are, indeed, valuable aspects of a tree, here are some other tree facts you may not have known:

Many of us know that trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, but did you know that, in one growing season, a single tree produces the amount of oxygen that 10 people breathe in a year? Or that one acre of trees can remove 13 tons of dust and gases from the air each year?

We know that mature trees with full canopies provide comfortable shade, but did you know that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the net cooling effect of a young healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours per day?

Trees also provide a valuable boost to Missouri’s economy. Timber harvests contribute approximately three billion dollars to the state’s economy annually. Each year, the average Missourian uses the equivalent of one tree that’s 100 feet tall and 18 inches in diameter for his or her paper needs.

Trees also play a role in the high-quality streams we have here in southern Missouri. Evidence of the roles they play in slowing erosion, stabilizing stream banks and riparian corridors and in filtering groundwater that percolates through their root systems can be found in the clear water and quality sportfish populations that exist in many of our waterways. In addition to their root systems, a tree’s canopy also helps to slow erosion by breaking up and, in some cases, diverting precipitation before it hits the ground. Research has shown that the canopies of 100 mature healthy trees will intercept about 100,000 gallons of water per year.

And, of course, there’s the wildlife benefits mentioned above. A multitude of animal species depend on our trees for nesting habitat, shelter or food.

Simply put, Missouri wouldn’t be the wonderful state we enjoy today if it weren’t for trees. It’s evident Missourians understand this because, throughout the history of the Missouri Department of Conservation, the citizens of this state have made it clear they care as much about conserving forests as they do about conserving the fish and wildlife resources of this state. Department of Conservation staff deeply appreciates and values the cooperation and input it receives from Missouri citizens. Let’s face it: Since more than 90 percent of Missouri land is privately owned; the aesthetic, economic and habitat benefits produced by Missouri’s trees would not be possible if not for the efforts and support of citizens.

People wanting to learn more about the benefits of trees and how they can manage trees around their home or timber on their land can find information at their nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or at http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/trees-work  

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.