The reasons we have for so loving our trees are many. Trees communicate among fellow members of their species through the air just as we do; construct “Internets” made of fungi to help their neighbors out; and show altruism, volition and understand kinship much like many animal species.
Last year, the Arbor Day Foundation planted more than nine million trees in the U.S. What can a million trees do? The foundation says that they can:
• address climate change by providing 80,000 tons of carbon storage. That’s the equivalent of taking 62,000 cars off the road for a year.
• create exponential payback. The value of a million trees’ environmental benefit is $329 billion—the same as an entire month of the total U.S. federal budget.
• ensure abundant, healthy drinking water by preventing 71 million cubic meters of water runoff, which is enough to fill a water bottle for every person on Earth every day for seven months.
• provide clean air to breathe by removing 5.8 tons of chemical air pollution, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulfur dioxide.
• reduce respiratory diseases. A million trees abate 159 tons of airborne particulate matter, such as dust, smog, smoke and soot.
Those statistics point out how important trees in the aggregate are to all of us. Sometimes, though, what we can learn when we set our focus on just one tree is even more enlightening and beautiful.
The makers of the film shown below did just that. Photographers Bruno D’Amicis and Umberto Esposito pointed their camera at a single beech tree in Italy’s National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise—one of the oldest deciduous forests in the world—and kept it running from June 2016 to May 2017. What they captured was entrancing: it seems all of the forest’s residents came out to visit or pay homage to the tree.
In the four seasons chronicled on the camera, badgers, wild boars, Pyrenean chamois and Apennine wolves can be seen as they pass by the tree. A highlight is the sighting of endangered Marsican brown bears, a critically endangered subspecies of the brown bear with a range restricted to Abruzzo National Park and its surrounding area.
D’Amicis has said that this project has helped him to understand that in the vastness of the forest, each tree is unique. There are trees that are good to lay your eggs in or in which to find a safe cover; trees on which to look for food or, simply, to scratch your back and thus leave behind a trace of your passage.
I think the film also shows just how much one tree can witnesses over a year—and how crucial it can be to a whole community of “others.”
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,