<p>This may look like a painting, but it’s not: the photo’s contrasting colors, camera angle, and graphic-like camel thorn trees trick the eye. It was taken in Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia, in 2009.</p>

Camera Trick

This may look like a painting, but it’s not: the photo’s contrasting colors, camera angle, and graphic-like camel thorn trees trick the eye. It was taken in Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia, in 2009.

Photograph by Frans Lanting, Nat Geo Image Collection

14 Pictures of Extraordinary Trees

See photographs of surreal, tall, and tiny trees.

One of the most popular ways to celebrate Earth Day, on April 22, is to plant a tree. It seems so basic that it’s easy to forget the value of doing so. So National Geographic asked Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, to explain the importance of trees.

“They hold our world together,” said Rogers. “They support biodiversity, they provide building materials, but they’re undervalued by all of us.”

Trees don’t just give birds a place to live and provide shade from the sun, they impact the structure of their environment.

“If you cut down all the trees and build buildings without vegetation … you’re actually impacting the structure of your house,” she said. “Trees provide valuable architecture and hold the soil together. When you rip this all up, you’re actually standing on very unstable ground.”

Deforestation can also worsen the impact of severe weather. When storms hit, trees can protect soil from erosion and decrease flooding.

Follow Becky Little on Twitter.

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