If you’re like me, then there’s a tree in your neighborhood that provides you with a sense of ‘grounding’ – a connectivity to life’s natural rhythm. That sense of connectivity is just one of the many life-sustaining benefits which trees provide. Community benefits of urban trees include the following: cleaner air, storm water filtration, flood mitigation, heat-wave temperature moderation, wellness benefits, carbon sequestration and increased property values.
Research shows that trees contribute to cleaner air in our communities by reducing air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead. In addition to a mature native tree having the lifetime capacity to store up to 3,000 pounds of carbon equivalent as carbon dioxide, many neighborhoods located close to highways, and factories associated with particulate matter emissions, also rely on trees to act as natural air filters.
Because of their extensive canopies and root systems, mature trees intercept hundreds of gallons of rainfall per year and increase soil’s rainfall absorption rate. Both these ecosystem services result in decreasing stormwater pollutants and stormwater runoff volumes. This protects water quality and can decrease the potential for flooding in many neighborhoods.
Human activities in urban and suburban areas can lead to a phenomenon known as the urban heat island (UHI) effect, where built-up areas often become significantly warmer than surrounding natural areas. Because of the UHI, developed areas can be up to 10 degrees hotter than natural areas.
In addition to helping neighborhood residents feel cooler, trees also help people to “keep their cool.” Research points to the positive effect of trees and green spaces on stress reduction, lower blood pressure levels and people’s ability to cope with ADHD. Although there are different theories on why trees positively impact people’s mental health and wellness, there is overwhelming evidence that the presence of trees and associated green space significantly reduces stress.
Studies also indicate that the presence of trees significantly increases property values. A study published in the Urban Forestry & Urban Greening journal indicated that trees within 500 feet of an appraised property increase its sales price by at least 1 percentage point.
In many ways, trees play a revitalizing role in our communities, providing or protecting many of the quality-of-life measures we value. So when you next venture outdoors, take a moment to ‘tree-preciate’ all the benefits of your community tree assets.