Urban forests yield countless benefits to us and our surrounding environment. Trees can improve air quality, support environmental health, strengthen communities, promote physical and mental health, and provide economic advantages. Explore the following pages for more information and additional resources on the specific benefits trees supply.
Trees offer various means for supporting the overall health of the environment. Trees supply wildlife habitats, increase biodiversity, and reduce climate change. Check out the following resources to discover the ways trees promote environmental health.
Trees can have unexpected environmental benefits, such as reducing wind speed and associated structural damage, while leaves and branches of thoughtfully planted trees may distort and muffle bothersome urban noise.
All stages of tree life and death are beneficial to wildlife, and should be incorporated into urban forests. Dead and decaying trees provide nesting, shelter, and nutrient recycling for many animals and plants, while complementing the canopy’s living trees.
Trees also offer specific water benefits. Trees intercept rainfall before it hits the ground, allowing for a slower release into the ground and evaporation. In addition, tree roots absorb storm water and stabilize fragile slopes and riparian zones - reducing sediment run-off. According to the 2014 City of Pittsburgh Street Tree Inventory, the city's 33,000 street trees alone intercept 15 million gallons of stormwater a year, for an average of 60 gallons per tree. This figure will only increase as the tree canopy matures.
Trees work in many different ways to improve the quality of the air. Removal of air pollutants and reduction of ozone formation are just a few of the ways that trees enhance atmospheric conditions. To find out more ways trees help boost air quality, explore the resources below.
In addition to removing pollutants, city trees create microclimates that help to shade and cool many concrete and metal urban structures. Lowering the temperature of an urban ‘heat island’ through trees can lead to more energy efficiency.
Trees foster a strong social community. Having trees in communities have been known to strengthen social development, reduce crime, and provide spaces for people to come together. Consider the following resources to discover how trees build a better community.
Trees create a ‘supportive’ and ‘defensible’ living space for many inner city residents, especially those in public housing complexes, by making public and semi-private spaces territories to be enjoyed and protected.
Vegetation, such as well-spaced urban trees, may reduce property crime by promoting greater usage and surveillance by residents. The restorative psychological effects of trees also help to diminish aggressive tendencies, which may otherwise lead to acts of violent crime.
Studies suggest that office workers directly benefit from the ability to view natural landscaping from their desks, taking fewer sick days and reporting more job satisfaction than those deprived of greenspace visibility. Likewise, patients in hospital rooms overlooking trees and associated vegetation recover at a faster rate than those who do not.
Rates of ‘social incivilities’, such as property crimes, graffiti and other forms of vandalism, are lower in areas of well-maintained landscaping including trees, than in vacant areas that portray a sense of abandonment.
Trees contribute multiple benefits to our health. Promoting physical activity, increasing hospital recovery time, lessening the symptoms of ADD, and reducing noise and exposure to Ultraviolet rays are just a handful of the ways trees boost physical well-being. Check out the resources below to learn more about the ways trees improve health.
Post-operative hospital patients who were in a room with a window view including trees, as opposed to patients with a wall-facing view, experienced better positive outlooks and fewer complications after discharge, took less pain medications, and were discharged faster.
Access to green areas aids in children's development of motor skills, concentration and self-discipline. For many adults, green areas and their vegetative elements, like trees, invite reflection by referencing symbolic meanings that relate to important convictions and values.
Less than 10 minutes viewing the elements of nature, including trees, can lower blood pressure, alleviate muscle tension, and alter heart and brain electrical activity enough to induce relaxation, having long-term affects on overall health.
A tree providing 50% canopy coverage can protect a person sheltering beneath its branches from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation for up to 100 minutes; someone standing beneath a canopy of 90% coverage benefits from UV ray protection the equivalent of wearing SPF 10 sunscreen.
The air pollution remediating benefits of trees are most effective in areas of greater population density, like urban areas. One estimate quotes that up to $6 billion in healthcare costs can be avoided by planting more trees.
A Japanese traditional healing method know as shinrinyoku , or 'forest bathing,' connects regular time spent in forest areas with a stonger immune system response. In this tradition it is believed that trees release an array of phytoncides, organic antimicrobial essential oils that stimulate immune response.
An individual's heart rate drops an average of 5 beats per minute (bpm) in the presence of city spaces "post-beautification" by tree planting and incorporating greenspace. Overall levels of feelings of optimism increase in the same environment.
Trees provide numerous economic benefits. Trees can increase the economic revenue for retail shops, prevent unnecessary costs of road maintenance, and increase property values. Explore the following resources, which explain how trees can aid the economy.
Consumers perceive retailers who incorporate trees and greenspace into their property layout as contributors to the overall well-being of the community in which they set up shop, and are even willing to pay higher prices for goods in the ‘greener’ business district.
Visitors to business districts with trees are willing to travel further distances and pay more in parking fees to take advantage of the welcoming atmosphere, which creates both a pleasant socializing and purchasing experience.”
Paved sidewalks, streets and parking lots shaded by trees stay cooler and therefore more resistant to cracking and rutting; costly repaving work can be delayed anywhere from 10-25 years in certain instances by providing shade trees.
Trees intercept considerable amounts of rainwater, up to 100 gallons each, dramatically easing the burden of runoff on aging stormwater drains and sewage systems. Incorporating trees into water management plans can mean scaling back on the huge expenses of storm drain system repair and replacement.
New software systems developed by the US Forest Service can break down the economic benefits of individual trees in an urban forest; using the software program ‘i-Tree’, it has been determined that each tree in New York city provides $9.02 annually in air pollution reduction, $1.29 in carbon sequestration and $61 in storm-water abatement.
Residental properties with ‘street trees’, located between the sidewalk and the street, sell at a premium, and sell faster than properties devoid of prominent trees. Neighboring property values of residences adjacent to trees escalate as well, even if there are no trees on the actual property in question.