Saving Mature Trees Vs. Planting New Trees: Which Is Better For The Planet?

Photo of a child wrapping their arms around a large tree in the forest, the tree has a green heart on the truck made of green moss show love and protection of trees
Old trees vs. young trees, the environmental contest has a clear winner!
In our youth obsessed culture, it’s hard to make the case for older being better. But when it comes to trees, many argue that it is true. They insist that mature trees contribute more to the earth than young ones. And cutting them down in droves is bad. Bad for them. Bad for the earth. Even bad for humans. Still, many people believe that no harm is done if you simply plant a new tree for every older tree that is harvested. Kind of an even trade thing. And that the benefits of thinning-out forests and making room for human development and agriculture is necessary for the greater good. But at a time when we’re realizing that environmental choices have global consequences, we need to take a closer look at that trade and decide if it's fair. Or wise. And if someone—maybe everyone--is getting shorted in the bargain.

Mature shade trees cool the earth’s surface and make oxygen for us to breath.
How can anyone say that planting a young tree is bad? It isn’t, of course, taken in isolation. In fact, regenerating the earth with new plants is a staple in the cycle of life. But doing so with the idea that a new tree can replace the benefits of an old one is just plain wrong.
Tree infographic that shows that mature trees help control global warming, create oxygen, provide homes for wildlife, store carbon, cool the air, raise property values and more
First, good luck escaping the heat under a sapling. Mature trees don’t only provide lush beauty to a landscape, but refuge from the elements. They also act as a kind of natural air conditioner, as much of the water they remove from the soil for nutrition evaporates into the surrounding environment through their leaves. Even when planted in higher densities, fledgling trees are just not capable of providing the same level of heat and humidity relief as the old guys. And let’s not forget that mature trees can produce way more oxygen.

"A mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year." "A 100-foot tree, 18 inches diameter at its base, produces 6,000 pounds of oxygen." "On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four."

Mature trees provide homes for millions of animals to live and raise their young.
Not only are saplings not very good at cooling their environments, but they’re also terrible at providing a secure place for wildlife to raise their young.
Birds, squirrels, and other tree dwellers look for tall, dense trees to inhabit because they offer the best defense against predators and harsh elements. In fact, over 45% of bird, mammal and even insect species choose larger, older trees to smaller ones and ground foliage. When deforestation occurs, and ancient trees are removed, wildlife is hurt. It’s just that simple. The recent increase in species extinction is directly linked to widespread deforestation. Still, there must be great benefits to the practice, right? Or it wouldn’t be happening in so many places around the world. Well, let’s just see.

A heated debate of rapid growth verses smart growth that preserves green spaces.
The primary argument in favor of deforestation is progress. That removing trees en masse creates more usable space for growth. Not to mention jobs. Especially in economically sparse areas of the world. And it also provides space to expand civilization and even feed more animals.
All of that is true. But you can’t really have progress in a world that is burning. And flooding. And generally being destroyed by global warming. We might think about these issues around  earth day  every year. But we should be proactively addressing them every day. And saving just one mature tree is a great place to start.
Deforestation happens all over the world to make room for farming, new home construction and commercial development, this is a picture of a forest that is cleared to grow soybeans
Deforestation is a major contributor to the earth's temperature escalation. When trees are cut down, the carbon they store is released and converts into carbon dioxide in the air. And carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses trap heat in earth’s atmosphere. Massive deforestation is resulting in massive amounts of carbon dioxide. In fact, 10 percent of all global warming emissions can be traced to the rapid pace of deforestation. Which throws a lot of cold water on arguments in favor of clearing out the old to make way for the new.

Less hugs. More advocacy. Things that you can do to help protect mature trees.
There’s no doubt that trees, like people, love a good hug. But what trees really need is increased awareness and advocacy for ways to save them. But how can we advocate for trees being fallen across the country, and even the world?
It’s easier than you think because every voice has power. Especially with your elected officials and the companies you support. Start with speaking out in your own community to increase awareness by wearing impactful message apparel. Then contact your state and federal representatives. Let them know that you only vote for leaders who vote for green conservancy and vital environmental protections. Finally, support companies that are on the front lines fighting for both causes as well as organizations like REDD+, which incentivizes developing countries to preserve their forests by paying them for their conservation efforts.
Save a tree, save the world. It's just that simple. And sure, go ahead...hug away. But don't hold too long. It's awkward.