The Important Relationship between Forests and Water

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-ClausenCommunications Intern

river in forest

Credit: Richard Ricciardi via Flickr.

There are few resources, if any, more vital to life than water. Whether it be drinking water, or water in our homes for bathing and cleaning dishes, not one day goes by that we don’t need and use water. The average American uses an estimated 80-100 gallons of water per day. For many of us, having access to clean drinking water and running water in our homes is a necessity that we often take for granted. According the United Nations, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the planet, and 783 million people do not have access to clean water.

But, people aren’t the only ones who need water — animals need clean water too, and for many species, such as different species of frogs which have highly permeable skin, water pollution can mean extinction. The loss of access to clean water, and the pollution of water sources, is partially due to deforestation.

Water availability has a direct impact on the health of forests and their inhabitants, which shows the importance of the relationship between forests and water. Trees are made up of more than 50 percent water and need a steady source of it in order to grow and stay healthy. A healthy 100-foot-tall tree can take 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and release it into the air again, as oxygen and water vapor, in a single growing season. They “drink” in the water using their small, hair-like roots. Water from the soil enters their roots and is carried up the tree’s trunk all the way to the leaves.

Trees serve as natural sponges, collecting and filtering rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers, and are the most effective land cover for maintenance of water quality. The ability of forests to aid in the filtration of water doesn’t only provide benefits to our health and the health of an ecosystem, but also to our pocketbooks. Forest cover has been directly linked to drinking water treatment costs, so the more forest in a source water watershed, the lower the cost to treat that water. Forests provide these benefits by filtering sediments and other pollutants from the water in the soil before it reaches a water source, such as a stream, lake or river.

forest fact

Having a buffer of forestland by streams and riverbanks does even more good than just filtering the water. They also help prevent erosion of sediment into the water, help to recharge the water table by allowing water to enter the ground and even the shade of trees play an important role in the lives of certain fish. Fish species, such as trout and salmon, are sensitive to changes in water temperature and will only lay their eggs in cool water, which is where the role of shady trees come in.

To learn more about the relationship between forests and water, and to join in our Earth Month conversation, visit our Elements of Forests Earth Month homepage and use the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!

Forest Digest – Week of April 18, 2016

by American Forests

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest! This week, each article corresponds to the element of air as part of our Earth Month campaign and why #WeNeedForests.
foggy mountains

Share your own stories with us and join our Earth Month conversation by using the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!

The Best Way to Celebrate Earth Day in 10 U.S. Cities

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-ClausenCommunications Intern

Tomorrow is Earth Day, the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and came about as an idea by then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. The idea came to him after witnessing the environmental destruction of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to rally for a healthy sustainable environment. Today, Earth Day is celebrated by more than a billion people every year and presents itself as a time to provoke change in human behavior and policy regarding our environment.

There are so many different ways to celebrate our environment on Earth Day (and every day) and to be a part of the movement towards sustainability — from simply being aware of the ways you use natural resources and manage your household waste, to planting trees or  getting outside and spending the day in nature. Here are a few of the ways Earth Day 2016 will be celebrated in cities around the United States:

New York City

Celebrate Earth Day in the Big Apple at the Green Festival Marketplace at the LEED Certified Javits Center. The Javits Center has the second largest green roof on a single, free-standing building in the entire United States. Throughout the weekend there will be more than 250 exhibitors, 50 inspirational speakers, tons of local nonprofits and delicious vegan and vegetarian food to munch on. Kids gain free entry, and students get in free on Friday.

Central Park

Central Park. Credit: Corey Harmon via Flickr.

Los Angeles

Grand Park will be having an Earth Day event featuring a tour of the park’s sustainable landscaping, outdoor yoga — including a boot camp — artwork, healthy lifestyle vendors and more. They will also be giving away free trees to Los Angeles residents!

UCLA will also be having their 9th annual Earth Day Fair to share their knowledge of sustainability. You can bring any type of electronic waste to them to be recycled safely, learn how to create a reusable bag from an old t-shirt, take photos in their photo booth and listen to live student music.


UCLA. Credit: Ignacio Andrade via Flickr.


The city of Chicago has the highest number of green roofs of any city in the U.S. and has plenty of fun Earth Day activities to attend! Watch a free screening of the award-winning film “Growing Cities” and enjoy outdoor star gazing led by the Chicago Astronomical Society & International Dark-Sky Association.

The Chicago Botanic Garden will also be guiding a special walk through McDonald Woods to celebrate Earth day this year. On this walk you can learn about a variety of spring wildflowers and the restoration work that is underway.

Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago

Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago. Center for Neighborhood Technology via Flickr.


Every year on Earth Day, there is an annual Charles River Cleanup that brings together more than 3,000 volunteers to pick up trash, remove invasive species and assist with park maintenance. An integrated health center, OMBE Boston, will also be holding an Eco Beauty Bar Night on April 20, featuring mini-massages, spa treatments and samplings of organic skin care and eco-friendly wellness products.

Charles River, Boston

Charles River, Boston. Credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr.


Miami EcoAdventures is going to be hosting EarthFest at Greynolds Park, a day filled with free and exciting nature-focused activities and programs such as a guided canoe tour, a scavenger hunt, walking tours, face painting and more. North Miami Parks and Recreation is also hosting a “Go Green & Clean-up” event at two different locations in Miami to help clean the city, enjoy family- and kid-friendly activities and learn more about nature. Participants will be provided with a free t-shirt and lunch.


Miami. Credit: Richard Tanswell via Flickr.

Washington, D.C.

There is a plethora of ways to celebrate Earth Day this year in our nation’s capital. From Earth Day at Union Station featuring interactive, eco-friendly exhibits and activities, to watershed cleanups in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

Other fun events include an Earth Day celebration at the United States Botanic Garden, where participants can enjoy cooking demonstrations with seasonal produce and meet local representatives of environmental organizations. Earth Day at the National Zoo will be featuring gardening tips from expert horticulturists, a tour of the Zoo’s green facilities and special demonstrations.

The White House / North

The White House / North. Credit: George Rex via Flickr.

San Francisco

San Francisco’s Earth Day SF Street Fair is expected to have more than 10,000 attendees this year, taking advantage of the renowned speakers, eco innovators, green industry and civic leaders, earth-friendly products, nonprofits, sustainable fashion designers and alternative energy companies that will be in attendance. The event will feature fun activities like Do-It-Yourself workshops, a celebrity chef showcase, sustainable fashion shows and even an eco-carnival with a kid’s zone and an organic food court.

Admission to the Marine Science Institute is free all-day at Earth Day on the Bay. There’s going to be live music by the Banana Slug String Band, food trucks, a live raffle and shark feeding.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Credit: Trace Nietert via Flickr.

Austin, Texas

Austin’s annual Earth Day Festival will be returning this year to Mueller, Austin’s ‘sustainable mixed-use urban village.’ This year’s festival will be huge, with a presentation on Greening Your Home moderated by the Co-Director of CMPBS, Gail Vittori, and presentations on recycling and the green tech futurists of Austin. There will also be a Kid’s Zone with fun activities and a ‘Zen Zone’ with yoga classes and acupuncture demos.

Austin Texas Lake Front

Austin Texas Lake Front. Credit: Stuart Seeger via Flickr.


The Waikiki Aquarium will be hosting the 9th Annual Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo to highlight the impact we make on water sources. The aquarium, and 15 other organizations, will be providing educational activities for both children and adults on how to preserve and protect the diverse environment of Hawaii.


Honolulu. Credit: Markus Jöbstl via Flickr.


Celebrate Earth Day the active way in Seattle by participating in the April Earth Day half marathon, 15k, 10k or 5k races. The events are organized by Club Northwest, a locally based running club, and the race routes are located around the winding park roads and trails of Magnuson Park.


Seattle. Credit: Andrew Albertson via Flickr.

Conservation for the Future: An Interview with Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

As we inch closer to Earth Day, we’re continuing to highlight a very special partnership that has helped plant millions of trees: our 20-year partnership with Eddie Bauer. As part of The One Tree Initiative, we’ve been sharing a little behind-the-scenes look into what drives an interest in conservation from actor and activist, Ryan Reynolds, Eddie Bauer’s philanthropic ambassador to our partnership.

Watch the final installment of our video series to understand why being outdoors is both important and personal to Reynolds and why he feels compelled to conserve our environment for his children.

Learn more
about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and The One Tree Initiative. Plus, during Earth Week, Eddie Bauer will be matching donations made through The One Tree Initiative, giving one tree for every dollar raised, up to 75,000 trees. Donate now!

The Important Relationship between Forests and Air

by American Forests

By Shandra FurtadoCommunications Intern

Tree in field.

Not only do trees produce oxygen, but they also improve air quality in some unexpected ways.

We’ve all heard it — we need oxygen from trees to survive. It’s the primary campaign from tree lovers around the world in our quest to save the forests. However, although oxygen is important for survival, it is not the only air quality improvement maneuver for which trees should be praised.

A lesser known, yet equally interesting, feature of trees is how they cool air through evapotranspiration. As trees transpire, they release water into the atmosphere through their leaves. As the water changes state from liquid to vapor, the surrounding air is cooled, similar to how we sweat. This effect is especially beneficial in urban areas where heat is trapped by concrete and asphalt surfaces and can make summer days unbearably hot. Especially in recent years, where global temperatures have spiked, trees can offset increased temperatures on a local scale.

Another way trees can benefit urban areas and make it easier for us to breathe is through particulate matter capture. Forests can improve public health greatly by catching dust, ash, pollen and smoke on their leaves, keeping it out of our lungs.

But, particulate matter is not the only atmospheric pollution from which trees protect us. Trees are sinks for other harmful pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia and ozone, which can all cause respiratory problems from repeated exposure. Although ozone deflects harmful UV rays in the upper atmosphere, ground-level ozone is very dangerous and is linked to asthma. Trees are effective air filters by design, filtering out not only gasses that are harmful to humans, but also harmful to the earth’s ecosystems as a whole. Carbon dioxide is one of the most harmful greenhouse gasses, and filtering carbon dioxide out of the air is what trees do best.

urban forest

Throughout its lifetime, a tree pulls carbon dioxide from the air and turns it into sugar through photosynthesis, releasing oxygen in the process. This sugar is used to build organic matter — in the trunk, roots, leaves, branches and flowers. This accumulation acts as a carbon “sink,” which offsets accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Trees, however, cannot help us in this manner if they are left to rot or burn.

When a tree is cut down and burnt, the carbon does not just go away, butmost of the carbon the tree has captured throughout its lifetime is also released back into the air as carbon dioxide, reversing its lifetime work capturing greenhouse gasses. If trees are left behind to rot from logging, not carbon dioxide, but methane — a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide — will be released into the atmosphere from decomposers.  Reckless deforestation around the world accounts for 15 percent of global emissions of these heat-trapping gasses, a dangerous level that has the potential to be lowered.

Trees are the protectors of the earth, however, it is our turn to protect them. To learn more about the relationship between forests and air, visit our Elements of Forests homepage. Help us protect our forests by joining in on the conversation using the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!

Preserving Our Forests: An Interview with Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

For so many of us, being out in nature has been a transformative experience. As we continue through Earth Week, we’ve been talking about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and The One Tree Initiative, and learning why actor and activist Ryan Reynolds, Eddie Bauer’s philanthropic ambassador to our partnership of 20 years with the outdoor brand — cares about forests. Reynolds’ enjoyment of hiking, backpacking and camping, as well as his interest in protecting the forests in which he experiences those adventures, has certainly made us fans!

Watch the second installment of our video series to hear what first introduced Reynolds to the majesty of forests and why he feels the duty to protect them.

Learn more
about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and The One Tree Initiative. Plus, during Earth Week, Eddie Bauer will be matching donations made through The One Tree Initiative, giving one tree for every dollar raised, up to 75,000 trees. Donate now!

Celebrate Earth Month 2016 with American Forests and Our Partners

by American Forests

seedlingsThis Earth Month, American Forests is thrilled to highlight promotional campaigns of some of our amazing partners. By participating, you can help our partners contribute even more to our forest restoration work!

During Earth Month

  • DISH Network: During the month of April, DISH Network is encouraging customers to go paperless! For every existing customer who switches to their paperless e-bill option, DISH will plant a tree through American Forests. If you’re an existing customer, you can make the switch here.

During Earth Week

  • Eddie Bauer: From April 18 to April 24, our partner Eddie Bauer will be matching all donations made through The One Tree Initiative, up to 75,000 trees! You can donate online or by texting ONETREE to 80077 to plant five trees for $5.
  • Origins: Beginning April 16 and running through the end of the month, Origins is encouraging their customers and social media followers to share how they “kiss the planet” in efforts to help plant trees. For every social media post using #KissThePlanet and #DoGoodCampaign, as well as mentioning @OriginsUSA handle, Origins will plant a tree with American Forests, up to 25,000 trees!

On Earth Day

  • Plexus Worldwide: On Earth Day, Plexus Worldwide is partnering with American Forests to plant a tree for every product sold. To learn more about Plexus products, and to purchase via retail, visit Plexus Worldwide online or talk to a Plexus Ambassador.
  • TakePart: On Earth Day, will launch their ‘Re-tweet to Re-forest’ initiative in partnership with American Forests. For every engagement, retweet and post using the hashtag #fight4forests, TakePart will plant one tree, up to 5,000 trees, with American Forests.

The Outdoors is a Playground: An Interview with Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

As we celebrate Earth Week, we wanted to share why actor and activist, Ryan Reynolds — who is Eddie Bauer’s philanthropic ambassador to our partnership of 20 years with the outdoor brand — has a personal connection to conservation and reforestation. When he was young, Reynolds spent time in nature — forests, rivers and mountains — that served as a transformative outdoor educational experience that turned into a lifelong love of the outdoors. This is why he chose to support our 20-year partnership with Eddie Bauer, as their philanthropic ambassador.

Watch the video to hear what Reynolds has to say about the outdoors and conservation.

Learn more
about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and The One Tree Initiative. Plus, during Earth Week, Eddie Bauer will be matching donations made through The One Tree Initiative, giving one tree for every dollar raised, up to 75,000 trees. Donate now!

Forest Digest – Week of April 11, 2016

by American Forests

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest! This week, each article corresponds to the element of earth as part of our Earth Month campaign and why #WeNeedForests.

Share your own stories with us and join our Earth Month conversation by using the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!

5 Wildlife Species That Need Forests and Earth

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern

Earth is the foundation upon which any forest thrives. Without earth, seeds would not be able to receive the vital nutrients in order to grow. But, the soils of the Earth depend on forests, too — plants and decaying matter play an important role in the creation of new soil and addition of nutrients. Forests also help the earth by preventing erosion — using their roots to stabilize the ground and prevent landslides on cliffs and ridges.

The earth and forests share a vital and mutually beneficial relationship. But, there are also many wildlife species who play a role in that relationship, too and benefit from both earth and forests. Here are some of our favorites!

The Gray Fox

The gray fox builds its dens in rock formations, hollow logs and trees, burrows and brush piles. Their dens are often lined with grass and leaves. Gray fox pups are born blind and don’t venture out of their dens for about 5 weeks. During this period, the father provides food for the entire fox family.

The female (also called a vixen) may dig her den into the soil or use the burrow of another animal. This den may be up to 75 feet long, with numerous chambers used for food storage and the transfer of her young. Gray foxes are unique creatures, being the only member of the canine family with the ability to climb trees. They do so by grabbing the trunk of the tree with their forepaws and scrambling up with its claws and hind feet, in order to escape its enemies.

gray fox

Credit: regexman via Flickr.

The Gopher Tortoise

Gopher tortoises are a perfect example of an animal whose survival depends on both the earth and forests. They are dry-land turtles that live in well-drained, sandy soils in longleaf pine habitats and dry oak sandhills. Gopher tortoises are extraordinary diggers, and each tortoise will dig and use multiple burrows that can vary from 3 to 52 feet long, and 9 to 23 feet deep. Their burrows provide a home and refuge for more than 360 other species, such as black pine snakes, gopher frogs, foxes, skunks, opossums and many species of amphibians and invertebrates.

Unfortunately, gopher tortoises are threatened by significant habitat loss due to the clear-cutting of longleaf pine forests across the United States. Other threats to the gopher tortoise include habitat fragmentation and degradation. Gopher tortoises are considered a keystone species because so many other animals rely on their awesome burrowing abilities for a place to live — which makes it even more important to conserve forested land inhabited by the gopher tortoise.

gopher tortoise

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr.

The River Otter

Another unique animal that depends on the forest and earth is the playful North American river otter. The river otter makes its den in abandoned burrows near the water’s edge and can thrive in a variety of ecosystems such as rivers, lakes, swamps and estuaries. Their burrows feature numerous tunnels and usually feature a tunnel with easy water access. Den sites include hollow logs, log jams, piles of driftwood or boulders and abandoned lodges and bank dens made by nutria or beaver. Otter pups rely on their mother to learn swimming and survival skills. Although much of their lives are spent in the water, river otters can also bound and run quite well on land.

river otter

Credit: Josh More via Flickr.

The Spruce Grouse

The spruce grouse is a funny bird with an extraordinarily nonchalant demeanor. Found commonly in the coniferous forests of the northern United States and Canada, this dark-colored, stocky bird may sit motionless while observers pass by just a few short feet away — making them easy to overlook. They are nicknamed the “Fool Hen” because of this unconcerned behavior, and on numerous occasions have been captured and, upon release, wander only several feet away before beginning to forage.

The female spruce grouse is paler than the male and is superbly camouflaged against the forest floor, where it forages for food. Spruce grouses feed mainly on the needles of pines, spruce and other coniferous trees. Their diet is comprised almost entirely of conifer needs in the winter, but at other times they also eat fresh green shoots and leaves of other plants, as well as berries, flowers, insects, snails and fungi.

spruce grouse

Credit: J.H. via Flickr.

The Gray Tree Frog

The gray tree frog needs aquatic ecosystems for breeding and inhabits all elevations of forested areas that are in, or near, permanent water such as swamps, ponds, lakes and mixed and deciduous forests. Gray tree frogs are both arboreal (tree dwelling) and terrestrial (earth dwelling). They hide in tree holes, under bark, in rotten logs, under leaves and under tree roots when inactive.

The gray tree frog plays a critical role in the food web of their ecosystems. As tadpoles, they can graze enough algae to change the community of algal species in a pond, and, as mature frogs, they can reduce local pest populations such as mosquitoes, gnats and flies. Larger animals that depend upon them as a food source include larger frogs, carnivorous birds and small mammals.

gray tree frog

Credit: Tony Falola via Flickr.