When the question of critical infrastructure is discussed in urban and rural communities some of the first examples that get mentioned are roads, electrical and water utilities, and buildings. Roads and utilities form the connective tissue of our communities and homes and businesses form the bones.
But, what categories do trees fall into? Trees provide so many different services that they exist in a unique and important role for the health and well being of the towns and cities that we call home.
In this article, we’ll explore eight benefits of trees that make them an indispensable part of our environment.
The Many Benefits of Trees
#1: Trees make our cities healthy.
On a hot day in the middle of summer the shade beneath a mature tree creates an oasis-like environment. The shade from the leaves keeps the ground level temperatures lower by reducing the amount of sunlight absorbed by roads, sidewalks or even lawns.
The process of transpiration, when water is absorbed by tree roots and moved through the trunk and released through the leaves, lowers the surrounding air temperature. As the tree releases water, heat energy is removed from the environment when it converts the liquid into a vapor.
#2: Trees slow the rain.
Erosion and flooding events are mitigated by the collective canopy of our communities. Trees slow the rain by absorbing and reducing the impact of a passing thunderstorm. A healthy urban canopy can help reduce flooding events by keeping more water on site and slowing runoff to our rivers and lakes.
#3: Trees clean the air.
Air pollution is a major concern for everyone living on the planet today. The trees in your front yard, or the ones in your local woods, help improve air quality. They intercept particulate matter on plant surfaces and absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air you breathe.
#4: Trees can save you money.
Trees can also reduce energy use by shading your house in the summer months. A well placed shade tree to the south and southwest of your home (in the Northern Hemisphere) can help lessen the severity of afternoon and late day sun and reduce cooling costs.
A well placed stand of evergreen trees can slow prevailing winter winds and reduce the amount of energy needed to heat our homes in the winter.
#5: Trees provide habitat for animals and birds.
An individual oak tree is an ecosystem unto itself. A single mature white oak can host thousands of native caterpillars and in turn provide food for birds and the young they rear.
Years of plentiful acorn production can provide food to numerous birds and animals. A heavy mast year produces a surplus of acorns that allow birds and animals to help spread and propagate oak seedlings.
A single white oak can provide food and housing in the form of holes and crevices for nesting birds and animals. And tucked in the leaf litter and decaying wood underneath the canopy of the mighty oak can be countless microorganisms and fungi breaking down organic matter and also feeding other insects and animals.
#6: Trees can bring beauty and life to your home.
A mature tree in your yard can be a special place in a family’s life. The shade that is so inviting in the summer months can be a special spot for outdoor family gatherings. The memories evoked by the time spent with loved ones under a favorite tree can be passed down through generations of families.
The beauty of trees in fall can mark the passage of time and help slow our days down when we take note of the subtle changes in color and revel in the peak explosion of golden leaves.
Having a beautiful tree in your landscape can add to the value of your home in many ways, including the potential to help increase its attractiveness to would be home buyers.
#7: Trees anchor community.
Trees have been shown to increase neighborhood safety. The benefits of a tree lined street can be seen in the evidence of lower traffic speeds in a neighborhood. Greener, leafier neighborhoods encourage more people to be outside and live more active lifestyles while also getting to know their neighbors.
A productive fruit tree placed in the front yard can be a source of delicious food and a conversation starter. Getting to know your neighbors by sharing fruit from trees can create lasting friendships between neighbors.
#8: Trees provide jobs.
Maintaining the urban forest and caring for the special tree in someone’s yard is an important occupation. Arborists, municipal foresters and the businesses and city departments entrusted with caring for our trees provide meaningful work to thousands of people.
Planting and maintaining the existing trees in our cities and towns helps promote a future with a leafy canopy. Keeping trees healthy and removing ones that are posing a hazard makes homes and neighborhoods safer and more lovely.
For a long time trees have formed the heart of towns and cities. Our town squares and their leafy, majestic trees have played a vital role in civic life. By promoting the benefits of trees and maintaining healthy trees and forests, we add beauty, health, community, habitat, and crucial environmental benefits.
In conclusion, trees kick ass.