All of us benefit from Missouri’s forests. Our trees protect soil from erosion, filter the water we drink and clean the air we breathe. They provide shade in the summer and fuel in the winter. Living trees shelter plants and animals, and when it’s time for harvest, those same trees become lumber used to build our homes. In addition to their practical value, trees provide us with stunning scenery, memorable recreational opportunities and an important connection to the natural world.
Missouri is well endowed with trees. Vast blocks of forest in the Ozarks cover millions of continuous acres, and wooded corridors line most Missouri streams. Almost every farm or ranch contains forest land, either as woodlots or windbreaks. We also have countless trees shading our urban streets, enhancing our parks and yards and enriching our conservation areas.
In all their forms and wherever they are found, Missouri’s forests provide real benefits and services.
Soil and Water
Trees keep soil on the land and out of streams. Tree canopies, leaf litter and extensive root systems of forests offer such good protection to soils that erosion in forests is virtually nonexistent compared with cropland, pasture and areas of development.
Forests adjacent to streams are especially important. They help hold stream banks in place and filter pesticides, nutrients and sediments before they can reach the water. They also offer shade, which is important for maintaining water temperatures suitable for the plants and animals that live there.
By intercepting precipitation, storing it and releasing it slowly, trees and forests reduce the volume of stormwater runoff, lessening the threat of flooding and keeping stream water levels more consistent and reliable.
These are just a few of the reasons Missouri’s forests are able to produce clean streams, rivers and lakes. Clean water results in high-quality, affordable drinking water, great fishing and other premier recreational opportunities, as well as critical habitat for numerous plants and animals.
Forests produce much of the oxygen we breathe. This is important in itself. However, in recent years, we’ve seen concern growing over the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels for heat, electricity and transportation. Much effort is being put into finding ways to reduce these emissions.
Forests are one of our greatest tools in the battle to reduce atmospheric carbon.
Missouri’s forests already store more than 5 million tons of carbon, and