Trees – Cradles of life

February 11, 2017 / Santhosh Krishnamoorthy

Trees are some of the oldest living beings to inhabit the earth.  They are so resourceful and efficient that they have been able to grow and spread to almost every corner of this planet. Their mechanisms are highly adaptable and thus capable of surviving in the toughest of environments.

Trees are full of life, they bear life, they harbour and support life. In short, it will not be an understatement to say that trees are indeed cradles of life.

One huge tree like this (The Flame of the Forest in Kaziranga) can support an entire life system for many years.

Standing under a tree and looking up reveals a thick interconnected mesh of branches, that are very much like the veins in our body, through which, flows the juice of life, the support system for many different kinds of animals and plants.

There is a multitude of ways in which a tree can act as a pivotal and integral part of an ecosystem.  Here, I list down a few of the most important aspects in which it plays a crucial role and helps to sustain and support life.

Refuge – Protection against nature’s elements 
When nature waves its powerful hand and downs its fury on this planet, battering it with thunderstorms or scorching heat, the animals, big or small, have nowhere to hide. Only trees come to their rescue. The mighty trees, with their widespread canopies, with powerful trunks and roots to hold them strong, act as great places of refuge.
Here’s a herd of elephants resting under the shade of an Acacia tree on a hot summer afternoon in the grasslands of Serengeti.

Even in the cities, during summer, it can be noticed that the temperatures under a tree cover can be substantially lower that it is outside of it.

Apart from this; the thick canopies of trees provide many small birds and mammals protection against predators. They are safe as long as they are hidden under the canopy. On the other hand, trees can also provide nice vantage points for predators to scour the surroundings for potential prey, like the Grey-headed fish eagle here.

When it rains, the cover of trees again helps disperse the water droplets, providing shelter to many birds and other animals. Here’s a Brown-fish Owl shielding itself from the rain.

Home – Place to live 

Trees also serve as places of residence for many animals. Birds, among many others, find trees a safe place for nesting and rearing their young. The burrows and holes in the trunks of trees are ideal places for settling down in. The hollows are deep, secure and naturally air-conditioned. Lovely homes indeed.

A pair of rose-ringed parakeet explores their new home.

A family of Spotted Owlet has made this little patch of a burrow on a tree branch as their home.

Source of food

Trees, with their frequent supply of nectar-bearing flowers and fruits, are magnets for animals, a great source of food for them.  Here’s a Myna feeding on the juicy nectar.

       Here’s a Khaleej Pheasant feeding on the fallen flowers.

And a spotted deer munching on the juicy flower petals too.

The barks of trees also harbour many insects, which in turn attracts many birds and other animals. A tree thus has a major contribution towards being a source of food for a highly diverse group of animals.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to say, just giving an idea of how important trees are. Trees have a major role to play, in fact, they are vital to ensuring that an ecosystem survives, let alone sustains. They are the support system on which life on this planet rests, truly cradles of life.