In this blog, we will be looking at several interesting oak tree facts, from the life cycle of an oak tree to its environmental contributions. Oak trees have a long life cycle, typically up to one thousand years or more, barring disease or pest infestation. They contribute to the surrounding biosphere in many ways, as a home, food source and part of the water cycle. Up to a hundred different species can live in or on one oak tree, or feed on its various parts.
As a result, conservation of oak forests is vital to the wellbeing of the earth as a whole. In the last thirty years great steps have been taken to ensure this, with two organisations in particular taking responsibility. The Forest Stewardship Council is a global independent organisation providing certification for responsible forest management and traceable timber chain of custody. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification work with growers and forest stakeholders. Through this they promote responsible forest management, issuing certification and influencing local and national law.
Oak Tree Life Cycle
Although there are about six hundred types of oak, they all have a similar life cycle. The journey from acorn to oak tree is a long one, with several distinct phases. Therefore, oak must be managed sensibly, once a tree is gone it is not quickly replaced.
- Oak Tree Acorns
- Planting Acorns
- Shoots appear (8-10 weeks)
- Oak Tree Sapling (6 months) (15-20 years to mature)
- Small Oak Tree (produces acorns after 50 years)
- Large Oak Tree (100-300 years)
- Great Oak Tree (700 years)
- Dead Oak Tree (1000 years)
How An Oak Tree Benefits The Biosphere
During its life, an oak tree doesn’t just take resources from its local environment to survive. The presence of the tree provides many benefits to the surrounding biosphere and its other inhabitants.
- Canopy provides shade for other plants and soil, preventing water loss and providing optimum temperature for growth.
- Each oak leaf absorbs CO2 and releases Oxygen. 240 pounds of Oxygen are released each year from one oak tree, enough for a family of four people. Carbon is retained in the tree structure as it grows, making oak a Carbon neutral crop.
- Water drawn from the ground is released through leaf pores into the atmosphere and back into the local water cycle.
- Branches and trunk provide homes for birds, squirrels, insects and fungi.
- Leaves, sapwood, bark and acorns provide food for other species.
- Roots bind soil together, preventing erosion and desertification.
- Roots draw water through the soil, keeping it moist and bound together and providing ideal conditions for other plants. A mature oak can draw 50 gallons of water each day, maintaining the local water cycle.
Even in death, the oak tree continues to benefit the environment. In farmed areas where the oak trees are felled, shavings and sawdust are often returned to the soil to simulate this. Stumps of felled trees also contribute as they decay.
- The wood and bark of the dead tree can provide food and nourishment for fungi and bacteria.
- Several species of insect lay eggs in the dead wood, providing shelter and food for their larvae as they mature.
- Insects living in the dead wood can be a useful food source for birds and bats.
- The hollow trunk provides shelter from predators for small mammals and birds.
- As the wood decays, it returns nutrients and moisture to the soil below. This provides a rich environment for future plant growth.
A Conservation Timeline
By the end of the 1980s, deforestation and irresponsible logging were leading to environmental disaster. Thankfully, from 1990 several multi government conferences and summits have been convened and important agreements reached. Also, the FSC and PEFC, both independent, have contributed and developed their own certification processes. Their contributions have also helped influence official legislation on responsible forest management.
Strasbourg conference establishes Forest Europe process.
Rio Earth Summit, Forest Principles document is produced.
Helsinki conference, Forest Principles incorporated into Forest Europe.
First FSC General Assembly in Toronto.
FSC headquarters is established in Oaxaca, Mexico.
US chapter of the FSC is established in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Lisbon conference discusses socio – economic impact of sustainable management.
PEFC established as Pan European Forestry Certification to aid small scale private forests.
First PEFC Chain of Custody guidelines produced and soon endorsed in Europe.
Vienna conference, 41 European countries, 4 non European and 24 international organisations represented.
FSC secretariat established in Bonn, Germany.
Australia and Chile endorse PEFC standards.
Warsaw conference, European Union endorses Warsaw Declaration and two Warsaw Resolutions on sustainable forestry.
International Year of Forests.
Oslo conference, European 2020 targets for protection and sustainable management of forests adopted by many countries.
Madrid conferences assess results of legally binding agreement on forests in Europe.
FSC operating in 40 countries worldwide.
PEFC certification is endorsed in 80 countries.
European ministers working towards 2020 targets.
Hardwoods Group are industry leading suppliers of European Oak. All our products are sourced from sustainable forests and fully certified. We can provide Air Dried, Kiln Dried or Green Oak to suit all purposes. Get in touch to discuss your requirements, we will be happy to help.