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Benefits of Urban Trees

Written by Jordan Baylor, Project Arborist and Business Development

An estimated 83% of the U.S. population resides in urban areas. When keeping this statistic in mind, it is obvious that it is more important than ever to make sure our urban infrastructure can support our urban population. The growth of our cities has resulted in a decline in urban canopy cover and an increase of impervious surfaces. An increase in impervious land area increases stormwater runoff and contributes to flooding, increases the urban heat island effect, and increases energy demands.

5 benefits of urban trees: Combat challenges faced as cities continue to expand

Reduce the “urban heat island effect”

The average temperature in cities is 1-7°F warmer than the temperature in nearby suburban and rural areas. This is termed the “urban heat island effect” and has numerous negative impacts including increased air pollution, increased energy demand, and alteration of weather patterns. One way to combat the urban heat island effect is to plant more trees. Trees act as a natural “air conditioner” via evapotranspiration and result in lower temperatures. As trees release water vapor and provide shade, they have been found to reduce the air temperature by 2-9°F and can reduce the surface temperature of nearby objects by up to 45°F.

Decrease energy demand

Here in Central Texas, keeping your home cool in the summer can be difficult (and expensive!). By taking advantage of the cooling property of trees and reducing the urban heat island effect, you can also lower your A/C bill. Not only do trees cool the air and provide shade in the summer, but they can block the wind in the winter. This means that trees can lower your heating bill too!

Increase property value

The presence of mature trees on your site can increase your property value on average 3.5-4.5% and has been known to increase property value by up to 20%! Unlike many other investments we make in life, trees’ value appreciates as they age. Whether mature trees are present on your residential or commercial lots, the monetary value their aesthetics bring to your property is priceless!

Provide wildlife habitat

We often forget that we are not the only creatures residing in our cities. Although cities sometimes seem devoid of wildlife, they can be a home to wildlife too – but only if we continue to leave a little space for them to thrive. Trees provide food and a home to local wildlife, from insects and birds to squirrels and deer. All forms of life are integral to a balanced ecosystem, and trees can help us achieve biodiversity of both the plant and animal kingdoms.

Decrease stormwater runoff

The built environment of many cities has led to a significant amount of stormwater runoff that has contributed to water quality impairment across the nation. Tree roots intercept stormwater with their leaves, stems, and roots, thereby reducing stormwater runoff and erosion. A single mature tree can intercept over 1,000 gallons of stormwater runoff per year, effectively decreasing pollution and reducing erosion within the built environment. As trees intercept rainfall, they also neutralize many chemicals and pollutants to improve local water quality as well as reduce evaporative loss of water.

Although this newsletter only discussed 5 benefits of urban trees, there are many other benefits not mentioned – including decreased air pollution, increased immune health, increased urban biodiversity, faster recovery time of hospital patients, promotion of physical activity, improved mental health, carbon storage, and aesthetic value.

Whether regarding finances, conservation of resources, or personal health, we all have a need for trees in our cities!

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