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What Trees are Best for Biodiversity?

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Biodiversity is a term used to describe the variety of living things in an area. We can use it to describe the entire Earth, a state, or another geographic region. Altogether, scientists see biodiversity in the genes, species type, and entire ecosystems.

Overall, a biodiverse ecosystem is vital to the sustainability of this planet. Diversity at all levels builds a stronger environment that can sustain severe weather, disease, and genetic abnormalities. That being said, biodiversity is a natural occurrence that humans hinder with their expansion. Thankfully, we can rebuild and support biodiversity with trees and other plant life. Once the plant life is thriving, animal life will return to the area.

Another threat to biodiversity is the threat of invasive species. Over the last 200 years, humans developed transportation methods that allow global travel. As people traveled around the world, so did plants, animals, and insects. Some of these species are incredibly detrimental to their new homes.

As part of a living ecosystem, trees can support or hinder the biodiversity of an area. Trees that support biodiversity do so by feeding and housing a multitude of species. Additionally, they will create an environment where other plants and trees can thrive.

The trees on our list are best for biodiversity because they attract and support the most insects, birds, and animals.

Best Trees for Biodiversity

  1. Oak
  2. Cherry
  3. Willow
  4. Birch
  5. Aspen

1. Oak

What Trees are Best for Biodiversity - oak

In the United States, the native oak species are one of the best genera to plant to support biodiversity. Altogether, the oak tree supports thousands of insects, algae, and fungi. The large, deeply furrowed trunk gives these small organisms. Additionally, oak trees often grow to massive sizes. With this size, the branches support many small animals. Animals create homes in the branches and trunk for safety. Larger animals feast on the leaves, acorns, and other tree portions for sustenance. In fact, oak trees support over 2300 species including bacteria, mammals, birds, and lichens.

There are over 600 species of oak trees in the Northern Hemisphere. The genus contains evergreen and deciduous species. Oak trees grow to 70 feet in height with a massive canopy. These trees display dark green leaves from spring to summer.  The dense canopy can protect nesting birds and insects from strong winds or storms.

Oak trees are most abundant in North America. Only Alaska, Idaho, and Hawaii are without native oak trees in the United States. Altogether, oak trees support the biodiversity for over 1000 years. Moreover, the oak tree dates back over 35 million years ago. It is a huge piece of our biodiversity on this planet.

2. Cherry

What Trees are Best for Biodiversity - cherry

Cherry trees are a flowering fruit that supports biodiversity through pollinator. Birds and insects are attracted to these beautiful trees. Pollinators like bees, wasps, and beetles use the pollen from the flowers. When the pollen is collected, pollinators spread the pollen to other plant life. This pollination increases the biodiversity in the area greatly.

After the flowers bloom, cherry trees produce a stone fruit known as a cherry. Cherries are delicious for humans and many other mammals and birds. In fact, there are many farms dedicated to growing the cherry. Humans use them in countless recipes and applications. Overall, cherries are full of wonderful nutrients.

Cherry trees grow across much of the Northern Hemisphere. The largest groves of cherry trees grow in the Pacific Northwest, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Most cherry trees grow to 35 feet tall with large and full canopies. The bark is light gray to dark gray.

Birds and insects depend upon the cherry tree. The canopy and branches are large enough to support small bird nests and countless insects, fungi, and bacteria. Mammals will visit the trees for small snacks of cherries when they fall to the ground. Moreover, the leaves are edible for the mammals that can reach them.


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3. Willow

What Trees are Best for Biodiversity - willow

Willow trees grow predominately near waterways. With this location, bacteria, algae, and fungi thrive around the willow tree. New willows grow from shoots and fallen logs placed in damp soil. Altogether, it creates an environment in which many wetland organisms thrive.

There are over 400 species of willow trees in the genera. Almost all these trees grow near a body of water. Overall, willows reproduce easily. In fact, willows cross-pollinate to make new species and hybrids regularly. However, willow trees live a maximum of 50 years in natural habitats. Altogether, flooding and other damaging natural occurrences can shorten the willow’s lifespan. Because of their durability for reproduction, the willow will sprout anew as one falls.

Willows flourish in wetland soils and grow to 40 feet in height. They grow incredibly fast, which helps them support the ecosystem faster. The branches grow to great lengths, which results in a drooping shape. The trunk and branches cannot support the full weight of the branches.

Birds and insects that prefer the wet ecosystem depend on the willow tree heavily for nesting sites and habitats. Additionally, small mammals like rabbits and beavers forage around the willow tree for food. Larger mammals like deer also seek the willow tree for the small brown fruit and leaves.

4. Birch

What Trees are Best for Biodiversity - birch

Birch trees grow at a quick rate. With such a fast growth rate, birch trees support the environment before many other species. It is worth noting that birch trees thrive and populate barren soils. In fact, they create ecosystems where none existed. As a pioneer species, birch trees are some of the greatest trees to plant to support biodiversity. As the birch forest spreads across the barren land, other species follow. Smaller organisms like fungi and bacteria come first. After that, insects, birds, and mammals will join the ecosystem.

Arborists identify 50 species of birch trees. These trees grow to 70 feet in height. Overall, the canopy is small and clustered near the top of the trunk. You will not find branches growing near the ground of this trunk. It makes it a less likely choice for a small mammal to call home. However, birds can nest and forage in the leaves comfortably.

Much of the Northern Hemisphere supports the birch tree. Many native species grow across the United States. Like the willow tree, the birch tree does not live a long life. Altogether, the birch tree lives approximately 50 years in natural environments. Also like the oak tree, the birch is an ancient species. Fossil records show that the earliest birch species appeared immediately after the ice age.

5. Aspen

What Trees are Best for Biodiversity - aspen

Aspen trees are like birch trees because they are a pioneer species that spreads into barren lands. However, aspens live much longer than birch trees. Individual aspen trees can live 150 years. Aspens are quite unique because they grow in a colony. A cluster of aspens will intertwine their root systems.

As the roots twist together, the aspen colony can survive all kinds of natural disasters. Strong winds and flooding are no match for the aspen colony. Even if all standing trees were knocked over, small shoots will rise from the roots deep underground.

Not only does the aspen support the soil and insects within it, but it also creates a stable habitat for animals and birds to thrive. Additionally, moss, lichen, and fungi can flourish with the aspen.

There are 57 species of aspen trees in the Northern Hemisphere. The aspens grow in many colder climates of the western United States. In areas that are particularly difficult to live in, aspen trees protect the wildlife around them.


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