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Urban trees provide many benefits

7/18/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Sandy Barbic

Guest Column

Did you know that planting trees in your own yard or elsewhere in your community can actually help to reduce stress?

Have you ever traveled for miles over interstate highways, with nothing to see but utility poles and billboards, and then taken the exit ramp and all of a sudden, end up in some picturesque little town with tree-lined streets? Well, if you have, then you will remember the feeling of calm that came over you.

You might have been thinking, “I wish our town looked like this.” Studies have shown that trees reduce stress and contribute to a general sense of well-being by reducing blood pressure levels and relieving muscle tension. Roadside trees and green landscaping can reduce driver stress and aggression, calm traffic and reduce accidents. This is just one benefit that trees provide for us.

Here are some of the many advantages you will receive when you plant trees:

  • Trees improve water quality and help to prevent stormwater runoff and flooding. Trees act like sponges, filtering out pollutants and storing water in their root systems. A red oak with a trunk diameter of 30 inches will filter and hold 4,700 gallons of stormwater runoff in one year. Trees intercept and hold rain on leaves, branches and bark. A single blue spruce with a 12-inch diameter will intercept and hold 1,150 gallons of stormwater annually. Tree roots hold the soil in place and prevent sediments (a major component of non-point source pollution) from washing away into rivers and streams.
  • Trees increase property values and curb appeal. A sugar maple whose trunk is 12 inches in diameter will provide $33 in added property value each year.
  • Trees save you money. Trees reduce energy costs when they shade buildings in summer, block winds in winter, cool sidewalks and add moisture to the air. The same sugar maple planted on your tree lawn can reduce your energy bills by as much as $50 a year. Trees reduce automobile fuel costs. Vehicles parked in shade use less fuel to cool down in summer and warm up in winter. Trees reduce watering expenses. Established trees need less water than lawns, and their shade can reduce the water needs of other landscape plants. Shade from trees extends the life of paved surfaces, including roofs.
  • Trees can make us healthier, happier, smarter and safer. Trees capture air pollution and breathe out oxygen. A 12-inch diameter sugar maple will reduce atmospheric carbon by 502 pounds annually. Hospital patients with views of greenery instead of a brick wall were found to spend 8.5 fewer days in recovery. Shade from trees helps reduce incidence of skin cancer by intercepting ultraviolet rays. Urban areas with trees and other greenery have less crime than those without trees. Trees around homes and schools improve self-discipline and reduce symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Tree lawns are perceived by residents to mean more walkable streets. A study of urban adults in Europe found that residents in areas with the highest levels of greenery were three times more likely to be physically active and 40 percent less likely to be overweight than those living in the least green settings.
  • Trees contribute to wildlife health and species diversity. Trees provide food, habitat, traveling corridors, migration resting sites and nesting sites for many wildlife species. Tree canopy over streams keeps the water cool and able to hold more oxygen, which, in turn, supports an abundant array of aquatic life. Vegetated buffers around streams filter out pollutants and prevent them from entering the stream.

We are losing trees in our cities at an alarming rate, according to The Ohio State University horticulture professor Hannah Mathers, who said: “By the year 2030, only 10 percent of the world’s forest cover will be left. Urban forests will be most of what we have left.” If each of us planted a tree this year, our urban forest would provide much more protection in 2030 and beyond, and our town might end up looking like the little town we passed through on our trip.  For more information on the benefits of trees, visit www.treebenefits.com/calculator or call the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District at 330-929-2871.


Sandy Barbic is education specialist with the Summit Soil & Water Conservation District.

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