Trees shade our homes and beautify the places we live. They also function to reduce soil erosion and flooding, as well as improve local air and water quality.
Trees provide both heating and cooling benefits to homes and the City. By absorbing sunlight, and casting shade, trees prevent solar radiation from heating surfaces such as concrete, brick, and asphalt. Water vapor released from leaves helps cool the air. In the summer months trees can save energy used to run air conditioners, and reduce the overall temperatures of the city by five to ten degrees Fahrenheit. In winter months, trees drop their leaves allowing light to penetrate into homes. They also reduce wind speeds, cutting cold temperatures. In these ways, trees help conserve energy.
Carbon in the atmosphere is a major cause of pollution in urban areas. Carbon raises the temperature of the air above cities by trapping heat and other particulates. This heat trapping is known as the “urban heat island effect.” Scientists are currently studying this phenomenon; however, they already know that trees reduce and can reverse the impacts of the heat island effect by capturing large amounts of carbon through their leaves. Trees act as carbon sinks. One tree can store more than 25 pounds of carbon every year and convert this carbon into oxygen. Trees are one way to mitigate increasing rates of air pollution.
Water Quality and Erosion Control
Trees and other vegetation intercept rainfall before it hits the ground. This deflects the impact of rainfall on soils. Roots help to hold the soil in place, reducing the rate of erosion and sediment build up in our streams. This erosion control benefit protects the sources of our drinking water and the quality of water for fish habitat. Another way trees affect water quality is by replenishing soil moisture and filtering stormwater runoff. In this way, the urban forest can benefit the City’s infrastructure by reducing the volume of stormwater needed to be cleansed by our treatment facilities, and enhancing the quality of streams and rivers for people to enjoy.
Increased Property Values
Properly planted and maintained trees increase the value of real estate and proceeds from property tax. Recent appraisal studies show a 10-23% higher value for properties with trees. The presence of trees also increases the rate of sale. Mature trees have a greater influence on these statistics than younger, newly planted trees. Trees are now recognized as a real asset to property values and the marketability of real estate.
Benefits to the Retail Environment
A healthy urban forest enhances the economic stability of our local economy by attracting business and people. Surveys have revealed that people are willing to stay longer and spend more money in shopping districts that are well treed. Apartments and office buildings with trees have higher rates of occupancy. People considering relocating to an area consider trees a significant part of what makes a place livable. The comfort of a tree lined sidewalk, a shaded parking lot or office, or a treed park has shown to directly benefit local economies.
Trees make the places we live more beautiful. However, beauty may have deeper benefits. People are happier seeing places of beauty. Studies show that human contact with nature, even a view of trees from a window, can reduce daily stress. Positive emotional states are associated with being in or looking at things that are beautiful. Trees and vegetation provide much of the color, variety, shapes and sounds that are beautiful in a city. They reduce noise and light pollution, screen ugly views, and establish green spaces for people to enjoy. The benefits of trees in the urban environment are often intangible, but very important toward understanding the value of our urban forest.