Exploring the Benefits of Urban Trees

Those of us living in a city don’t often consider that we also live in a forest; but all the trees, shrubs and vegetation lining our streets, parks and backyards make up our urban forest! While we can appreciate the beauty they add to our lives, there are also a lot of invisible benefits they’re providing for us every day.

Have you ever walked down a street with no trees on a hot summer day, then turned a corner onto a street lined with mature trees? It probably felt like stepping into an air-conditioned room! Those trees are providing shade to the houses nearby, reducing their energy usage by up to 20%, saving the homeowners money and reducing human impacts on the environment.

A lot of trees can help cool the higher-than-normal temperatures that cities experience. Think of how much more pleasant a parking lot is when it has trees to park under.

Carbon sequestration is a big term, but it refers to an important benefit trees provide. A tree’s mass is approximately 50% carbon, and as it grows, it takes carbon from the air. Trees “breathe” in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and they store the carbon, then release oxygen. So trees are helping clean our atmosphere! A mature tree will remove thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over its life.
Trees also keep our waterways clean by absorbing rainwater runoff. Soil is only able to absorb so much water before it becomes saturated, and the extra water carries pollutants from our roofs, roads and sidewalks straight into our waterways. But trees can help soak up a lot of that water, filtering it, and even holding onto some of it on their leaves to be evaporated later. The more trees we have, the more water is taken up in a rainfall and the less severe the flooding.
There are many other important invisible benefits from our trees, including social, financial and health benefits. With all these perks, having a healthy urban forest is something we should strive for as a community.

Take a moment this Arbor Day to appreciate all that our trees do for us!

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