The Benefits of Trees
Eric H. Hoyer
Most of us have one or more (or many) trees in our yards. We also see them on city streets, in parks, in public places such as government buildings and in wooded areas. I am sure that most people enjoy looking at trees and have planted them in their yards. But do we really appreciate what benefits are derived from our urban trees? I am not referring to lumber or forest products. But, rather, both the tangible and intangible benefits provided by trees in an urban environment.
Usually, the first benefit people think of or appreciate is the shade value of trees. Trees create a micro-climate under their canopies as they block the sun. They also transpire (give off) water vapor from their leaves. This serves to cool the air under the canopy. It is not unusual for it to be 10 degrees cooler under a tree on a hot summer day. Properly placed shade trees around a home can serve to drastically reduce air conditioning usage. Furthermore, in some cases up to 50 percent.
When we breathe, we use oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Trees utilize carbon dioxide as part of their photosynthetic process (making food) and create oxygen as an end product. In one year, an acre of mature trees can provide oxygen for 18 people. Because trees utilize carbon dioxide, many scientists and others concerned about global warming recommend the planting of trees. Trees serve as a sink for carbon dioxide where it accumulates until the tree dies and begins the decomposition process. In one year, that same acre of mature trees, which provides oxygen, stores the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide as driving your car 26,000 miles.
Soil Enhancement/Erosion Control
Tree roots serve to hold the soil together and reduce erosion during heavy rains. Leaves intercept rainfall, slowing the velocity of falling rain. This allows the rain to percolate into the soil and reduces runoff. Accumulated leaf litter breaks down, creating organic material and enhancing the quality and productivity of the soil underneath the tree. As roots grow and expand, they break up the soil. This reduces compaction and creates pore spaces in the soil which hold air and water.
Proper species selection of trees planted in a line consisting of one or more rows can serve as an excellent sound barrier and/or wind barrier. Leaves absorb sound as well as reduce wind flow. These same trees can also provide privacy and screening from conflicting adjacent property uses.
Trees, particularly broad-leaf trees, aid in the absorption of pollution and particulates from the atmosphere. In the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by US trees nationwide, researchers found that trees and forests in the US removed 17.4 million tons of air pollution in 2010, with human health effects valued at $6.8 billion. While this may not seem as important in rural Citrus County, over 96 percent of the pollution removal occurs in rural areas due to the higher tree cover while the health benefits are enjoyed in the urban areas.
Social Benefits of Trees
Trees have a calming effect on human behavior. People flock to city parks to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of trees. Studies have shown that apartment complexes with tree plantings have lower crime rates than those without trees. Other studies have shown that recovery times for patients is less where trees are visible from hospital windows. Trees break up harsh urban views; trees are planted as living memorials to loved ones, and everyone enjoys views with significant greenery.
Not the least of the benefits of trees, is that of providing wildlife habitat for birds, squirrels, bees, possums, and raccoons. While we may favor some of these critters over others, all need a place to live, feed, and hide. As more land is cleared for housing and other human uses, greenspace becomes even more critical for our furry and feathered friends.
While many of the benefits discussed above are intangible and difficult to measure, multiple studies show that trees and landscaping provide a positive economic benefit to property values. A study in Portland, Oregon which examined over 2,600 homes sales revealed that homes with street trees sold for over $7,100 more than homes without street trees. A real estate appraiser in New York City states that tree-lined streets bring a 10 to 15 percent higher home price. Additionally, a Clemson University study states that homeowners recover 100 percent of the investment they spend on landscaping but must wait 5 to 7 years for the landscaping to mature if starting with a bare lot. Other studies have shown a 10 to 25 percent increase in home values for properties with trees and landscaping versus those without.
There are a myriad of benefits of trees. Most of which we take for granted or are not even aware of. The next time you take a walk or drive, look around (but not too much while driving!) and appreciate the greenspace we have here in Citrus County. We are all much better off because of trees.
In conclusion, there is something for everyone when you are at your leisure in Citrus County Florida. So if you are looking for an idyllic setting to call home, contact one of our friendly professionals at Coldwell Banker Next Generation Realty of Citrus.
Eric is a Certified Arborist, a Certified Forester, a Registered Consulting Arborist and a Qualified Tree Risk Assessor with Natural Resource Planning Services, Inc. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.