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Why Plant indigenous trees

Updated: Apr 17

The world is getting hotter but especially our cities. Trees can reduce temperatures of a city by as much as 12degreesC, by providing cooling shade to people and buildings and through evapotranspiration. As trees release water in to the atmosphere, the surrounding air is cooled as the water transpires from liquid to vapour.

Trees also capture carbon and reduces air pollution which are driving climate change. Carbon dioxide emitted from our factories, our vehicles, our houses is captured by trees which use the carbon to grow and releases the oxygen into the atmosphere. Trees also help to reduce flooding because their roots stabilize the soil making the soil more porous so that the water runoff is not as heavy and damaging. Finally, properties with trees could have a higher value as more people appreciate the benefits trees can bring.

Why Plant Indigenous Trees?

We agree then that we want to plant trees. But what should we plant?

Trees for Zambia specializes in indigenous trees because indigenous trees are home grown, they are local, native, occur naturally, and are suited to our climate altitude, soils. But most importantly, indigenous trees form an important part of the ecosystem. Our indigenous birds, insects, fungi and animals depend on them. Palm trees contribute little.

Indigenous trees are more adapted than their imported exotic cousins. They tend not to grow too big. (Have you tried removing a 50 year- old Indian Ash?) They do not invade as weeds, (Jacaranda). They are adapted to the climate and mostly can cope with periods of drought.

Indigenous trees are home grown; they are local and native; they occur naturally. Indigenous trees are suited to the local climate, altitude, soil and form an important part of their various ecosystems. We know that trees growing in the natural state have sophisticated communication and reproductive systems that links them with other trees of the same species, with other plants, soil flora and fauna in the same ecosystem.

The linkages extend to large animals, birds and insects that eat them, fertilize them, or distribute and help germinate their seeds. In addition, there are complex root-soil relationships (including fungal mycorrhyza and bacterial nodules) which are now better understood. These mutual associations assist to sustain the ecosystem because the plants and trees access and contribute nutrients, and maintain moisture conditions (and therefore life), in the soil profile. A plethora of insects (including butterflies, ants, beetles, spiders and mantids), feed on, reproduce in and often provide mutual benefits to the plants they associate with.

Many larger and small animals (kudu, duiker and bushbuck, bush babies, squirrels, bats, door mice), reptiles (chameleons, lizards and geckos, snakes), and birds of all varieties (insect, seed, fruit and nectar eaters, and birds of prey) use plant flowers and fruit for food and leaves and branches for nesting, refuge and shade. We know that maintaining diverse ecosystems and natural processes is fundamental to our survival as a species.

Indigenous trees give shape to the rural and urban landscapes, provide shade in the garden, on the streets, in car parks and on the farm. In some cases, indigenous trees increase fertility in the soil, provide lots of colour and interest – flowers, leaves, pods, seeds.

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