Next week from May 13-16, 2013, I will be representing the Central Florida LCLAA Chapter as an Clean Air Ambassador in Washignton DC together with NLCCC, NAACP and other organizations. For more information on this year's 50 States Effort, please visit www.earthjustice.org/50states/2013 and http://earthjustice.org/50states/2013/victor-sanchez

Clean air and clean water are products of forests.

 The role of trees and forests in our ecosystems is absolutely critical. Forests renew our air supply by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Trees also clean our atmosphere by intercepting airborne particles, and by absorbing ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and other greenhouse gases. A single tree can absorb 10 pounds of air pollutants a year, and produce nearly 260 pounds of oxygen- enough to support two people.

Urban trees can do even more for clean air. Depending on location, species, size, and condition, shade from trees can reduce utility bills for air conditioning in residential and commercial buildings by 15 to 50%. Through shade and the evaporation of water from their leaves, trees also provide natural, low-tech cooling that reduces energy use and the need to build power plants.

While the role of trees in cleaning the air is well understood, the ecosystem services that forests perform regarding water is still being explored. Forests, it turns out, act as natural reservoirs, treatment plants, and  management storm water systems.

Forests provide natural filtration and storage systems that process nearly two-thirds of the water supply in the United States. In their natural and healthy state, riparian forests help to keep the water in streams clear. The forests do such a good job that the city only needs to do a minimum of additional filtering.

The ability of forest vegetation and soils to absorb and filter water also increases groundwater, as clean water trickles down to feed aquifers that may be tapped hundreds of miles away by thirsty cities. This same capacity to absorb water helps moderate runoff during rainstorms, and is one reason that cities around the nation are aggressively planting trees. 

Victor Sanchez

Central Florida LCLAA

Chapter President