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The many benefits of trees

The fact that trees can help create equitable, healthy communities and are crucial for adapting to, and mitigating climate change are well documented. Here are some examples:

A mature tree absorbs carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year. Multiply that by all the trees in your neighborhood and you have a carbon mitigation of thousands of pounds a year. Add to that, older trees sequester more carbon than younger trees so if your trees are healthy, it is more efficient and cost effective to maintain them.

Reduction of carbon in the atmosphere is not the only argument for leaving existing trees in your neighborhood. Advantages that directly impact neighborhoods can be surprising. A single street tree returns over $90,000 of direct benefits (not including aesthetic, social, and natural) in the lifetime of the tree. This includes:

Economic and energy benefits

  1. In one study, 83 percent of realtors believe that mature trees have a "strong or moderate impact" on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98 percent.
  2. A number of studies have shown that real estate agents and home buyers assign between 10 and 23 percent of the value of a residence to the trees on the property.
  3. Depending on the species, trees contribute to longer pavement life due to reduced heating/cooling (expansion/contraction) of asphalt.
  4. Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20-50 percent in energy used for heating.
  5. The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  6. Trees reduce annual heating and cooling costs for a typical residence by 8 to 12 percent and increase property values by 10 to 15 percent.

Health and wellness

  1. Trees filter airborne pollutants and can reduce the conditions that cause asthma. Asthma incidents increase in urban communities where trees are eliminated in favor of new roads, homes, or commercial developments.
  2. Stands of trees reduce air particulates by 9 to 13 percent, and the amount of dust reaching the ground can be 27 to 42 percent less under a stand of trees than in an open area.
  3. And, while this may not seem particularly applicable to your neighborhood, several studies support the hypothesis that well-designed and -maintained urban parks can reduce gun violence, improve safety and keep residents healthier.

Flooding mitigation

In urban and suburban settings, a single deciduous tree can intercept from 500 to 760 gallons of rainwater per year.

Quantifying benefits

There are many species of trees that are good choices. Some qualities that you want to look for if you are planting new trees include resistance to pests, tolerance of different soil types, strong branches, and sun tolerance, although they may require additional watering during heat waves and droughts. According to the website i-Tree, one red maple over a 20 year period can:

  • Remove 3,100 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Reduce the emissions of 5,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and 30 pounds of air
    from a power plant.
  • Save 570 kWh of electricity and 20 MMBtu of fuel for cooling and heating.
  • Intercept 27,000 gallons of rainfall and avoid 4,800 gallons of runoff.
  • Filter 15 pounds of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide from the air we breathe.