The destruction done to trees in our community during the derecho of Aug. 10 may have many residents questioning why they’d ever want to replace trees or plant more trees in an urban setting.
It is true, toppled trees caused significant damage for some and were expensive to remove or trim for others. But, before you become opposed to having urban trees, consider a few of these positive facts about trees, as found in a document: “Urban Street Trees, 22 Benefits Specific Applications,” by Dan Burden.
Did you know that tree-lined streets have been shown to reduce the overall speed of motorists? Texas A & M conducted simulation research showing people slow down while driving through a treed scape.
Trees create a safer walking environment. Trees help frame and create distinct edges to sidewalks, allowing motorists to better distinguish between their environment and one shared with people.
Trees help with drainage. Trees absorb the first 30 percent of most precipitation through their leaf system, allowing evaporation back into the atmosphere. In a nutshell, having more trees helps with storm runoff and reduces potential flooding.
Trees help protect you and me. Tree-lined streets can indeed protect us from rain, sun, and heat if we are outside, under them. They provide skin protection. And it comes as no surprise to those who like to walk for exercise during the daytime hours – trees create a temperature differential of 5 to 15 degrees when you are walking under their canopy.
Just as trees protect you and me, they can also protect utility poles, light poles, and on-street and off-street parking areas. Trees also have been shown to add to the life of the pavement. Studies in California environments show that shade from urban streets can add 40-60 percent more life to costly asphalt.
Trees help absorb pollutants. They can convert harmful gasses back into oxygen and other useful natural gasses.
Trees can help reduce energy bills because they are able to lower air temperature. A property shaded by trees can see from 15 to 35 percent energy bill reduction. Streets and parking lots can increase urban temperatures by 3-7 degrees, so good tree cover is a definite cooling benefit.
Trees connect us to nature and to our human senses. They provide a canopy, root structure and setting for important insects and bacterial life below the surface, and they are essential for people and other creatures above the surface. Consider how vital trees are to birds, squirrels, and other urban life.
Best of all, the environment, which includes trees, can (aside from storms) positively impact your well-being. Being in the presence of trees has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve overall emotional and psychological health. In this unique year of COVID-19, this benefit stands out most of all.