Trees In Our Cities: Why Are They So Important?
Next time you drive through a really nice neighbourhood – with its pretty, well-kept homes and clean streets – try to imagine the same area without the lush lining of trees that will inevitably be present in these places.
Suddenly not such a nice picture, is it?
That is because trees are a vital presence in our cities – we need them for our health, for maintenance of our air quality and keeping pollution at bay, keeping our cities’ temperatures stable, and a score of other reasons that we generally don’t even think about. As it turns out, they are much more important than just creating a nice, wholesome urban picture. This is how trees improve our lives on all levels – even economic!
Trees improve our health
While you have probably known where oxygen comes from since preschool, did you know that being around trees can reduce your stress levels and lower your blood pressure, not to mention help you to live longer? According to a nationwide study conducted in the US by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2016, women who had homes in areas with the highest level of greenness in the surrounding 250 meters showed a 12% lower death rate than those whose homes had less greenness. Their risk of dying of cancer, respiratory disease and kidney disease was also significantly lower.
Another study showed how greenery can have a positive effect on depression. The leader of the study, Carla Bezold, explained that experiencing nature provides a boost in mental health. Apparently, it has to do with countering the stress and distractions of urban life. “Being around trees and other greenery, for example, provides a respite from that stress on our attention and cognition.”
Trees are vital for the environment and wildlife
Throughout their development, trees provide a habitat for complex natural systems. According to an article by Royal Parks, one mature oak can be home to as many as 500 different species, including birds, insects and smaller plants such as fungi and lichen. Moreover, they are vital in the prevention of flooding and soil erosion, as they absorb stormwater during the rainy season. Trees also regulate the temperatures in urban areas, having the ability to lower the thermometer by up to an estimated 7°C. Did we mention they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen? Central Park in New York City, for example, which is home to more than 20 000 trees, is responsible for removing one million pounds of carbon dioxide from the city’s air each year. This park is well-known known for being the lungs of New York, and is an incredibly important component in the air quality of the city.
Trees improve the economy of an area
According to market research done on the topic, tree-scaped streets boast a 12% higher income than those without foliage, meaning that your business will have a decent advantage over its competitors if it is based on a street with healthy, mature trees. This is because humans are attracted to green areas, and this includes the places where they work, shop and invest. Moreover, house prices has shown an increase of 5-18% when they are in close proximity to large, mature trees. Companies that are near parks and greenness also enjoy happier, healthier employees, which has a positive effect on business.
Trees reduce crime
Yes, really. A study published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning has shown that the presence of trees tends to reduce lawless activity in urban neighbourhoods. The study took into account factors such as the socio-economic characteristics of an area – including housing age, income and owner race, as well as other variables such as ruralness and population density. The results showed that a 10 percent increase in trees was roughly equal to a 12 percent decrease in crime. Even after considering the abovementioned characteristics involved, the results stayed true. “It’s pretty striking how strong this relationship is,” comments Austin Troy, lead author of the study.
While we tend to take trees for granted in our societies, it is clear that they play a vital role in our health, wealth and wellness. This is why it is so important to take care of our public spaces and invest in healthy trees in our cities.
Want to know more?
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