Last autumn, Hong Kong has a record-breaking rainfall of over one thousand millimetres, being one third of the annual total rainfall and 26% above the normal. Many areas were flooded especially in the eastern part of Hong Kong Island. In tropical cities like Hong Kong where our paved areas, like roads, block the natural path of water percolating into the ground, trees are particularly important as one mature tree can reduce storm water by breathing out 150,000 liters of underground water each year. According to The Nature Conservancy, an NGO on conservation, even young trees can breathe out 230 liters to help alleviate floods.
Trees are precious resource. It provides us with fresh air, water, fuel, fiber and inspiration. The Nature Conservancy said just one large tree can supply enough oxygen for four people’s daily consumption; a tree can absorb 22 kilograms of carbon per year. Trees produce hundreds of fruits and nuts. Food additives for making ice-cream, chewing gum and many other delicacies also come from trees. The number of wood and paper products consumed per person per year is equal to a tree of 30m tall, 46cm diameter.
In recent years, over 20,000 trees and 5 million shrubs have been planted by the Hong Kong government to beautify the city as well as to fight the climate change. The green trees and colorful flowers injected vitality and liveliness to the city. Trees are planted everywhere, not limited to parks, housing estates and pedestrian precincts, they are also found in the central median of roads, building façades and shopping malls.
It is important to be familiar with the special characteristic of the plants, in order to choose the right ones for each location.
Unfortunately, there are still news about people abusing trees. Some time ago, several campers were annoyed by having been tripped over by some tree roots that they chopped down the tree. Also, there were hikers using small trees as support for warm-up exercise as it was appealing to them for being able to pull and curve the trees. There was also a bunch of mimosa being transplanted somewhere else and fenced off by railing because some children were injured after touching them accidentally. All these examples tell us that the current education of plant conservation is inadequate.
We have learnt the importance of trees and how to protect them since childhood. We should not pick their flowers and fruits to avoid damaging the trees as these acts may affect their growth. We do not barbeque or burn joss-sticks near trees to avoid the trees being smoked and damaged. There is also possible fire hazard to the trees caused by flame. These are the basic attitude expected from education.
But I think there is much more we can do to promote tree conservation.
To live in harmony with plants requires understanding and caring. Each type of tree has its own characteristics. When we understand their different structures and shapes, master their ecological pattern, then we can handle them properly to ensure their healthy growth. What’s more, we can also avoid incident like mistaking the leaves of valuable Chinese eaglewood as ordinary Chinese banyan, and avoid the substantial shedding leaves of newly planted autumn maple which was planted in the wrong place.
To encourage young people to get close to the nature, the Conservation E3 Foundation will launch a project called Tree Adoption Program (TAP), aiming to use an interactive learning platform to allow students to learn more about trees through investigative study, so that they will develop an interest to treasure and protect trees. As long as the public gain much more understanding of trees, I am convinced that they will know the importance of trees conservation, and that is the best way to get along with plants.
For more information, click here.
Photo credit: Conservation E3 Foundation