Trees: forgotten heroes

Joint report of WWF-Australia and Doctors for the Environment Australia


From urban tree cover to towering eucalypt forests, trees play a critical role in supporting human health and well-being. But unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of or have simply forgotten about all the amazing things trees do for us every day.

Only a quarter of Australians say they know a lot of the health and well-being benefits of trees, with two-thirds believing more education is needed on this topic.1

More and more, we are turning to technology to help us tackle the ever-growing health, environmental and climate crises. Yet part of the solution already exists and has done for millions of years – trees.

This report outlines the growing evidence connecting trees and forests to human health and well-being, including how trees cool our communities, minimise the effects of climate change, help protect us from infectious diseases and even boost our mental health.

This report aims to inspire and inform readers about the incredible benefits of trees. We hope it encourages Australians to get outside and spend more time in nature amongst them.


We can all admire the magnificence of trees. Yet there is so much more to these multitasking champions than natural beauty. As the title of our joint report suggests, trees are the forgotten heroes for our health. Our snapshot of the research makes it clear that trees are not only vital for our health and well-being, they can also save lives.

That’s why Doctors for the Environment Australia and WWF-Australia are pleased to work together to highlight the many connections between trees and our health.

Trees feed us, shelter us from heat, and filter our water and air. They can help reduce stress and lessen depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

Tree climbing helps children develop strength, spatial awareness, creativity, imagination and self- confidence. Trees encourage people of all ages to exercise.

Intact ecosystems of trees can help prevent some infectious diseases from emerging in humans. Globally, the loss of trees through deforestation and land use change has increased our exposure to wild animals and the risk of zoonotic diseases, which jump from animals to humans. Up to 70% of emerging infectious diseases worldwide are zoonotic.

Trees are integral to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Trees provide connection to Country and lore, which is critically important for health and well-being. The cultural knowledge of trees was and remains a vital part of the way First Nations Peoples have traditionally lived and sustainably thrived on Country for millennia.

Trees fill nature’s medicine chest. Over one-third of all medicines we use today are derived from nature. Who knows how many more remedies are waiting to be discovered in our forests?


We need trees as homes for a wide range of pollinators that help us secure a bountiful and diverse food supply.

We know climate change is one of the greatest threats we currently face and that it’s vital we rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to greener renewable energy solutions. Trees can play a helping hand in mitigating the climate crisis by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide in their trunks and roots.

Doctors for the Environment Australia is an organisation of medical professionals whose vision is for a healthy planet and healthy people. Action on climate change and the protection of nature are vital to its mission to protect the health of people and the communities in which they live.

WWF-Australia is part of the WWF network – the world’s largest and most influential independent conservation organisation. In 2020, WWF-Australia launched Regenerate Australia, the largest wildlife recovery, landscape and community regeneration program in the nation’s history. As part of our plan to Regenerate Australia, we aim to save and grow two billion trees by 2030 by stopping excessive tree-clearing, protecting our existing trees and forests and restoring native habitat that has been lost.

For both science-led organisations, trees are crucial to our mission. We share a common goal: advocating for existing forests to be protected and more trees to be planted to reconnect habitat, shade our cities, and improve lives.

So please, read on about the wonderful, magical, life-saving powers of trees.

Read the full report


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