The Benefits of Trees

While I did not write this myself, I do find it very interesting and worth sharing:


Most trees and shrubs in cities or communities are planted to provide beauty or shade. These are excellent reasons for their use. Woody plants also serve many other purposes and it’s important to consider these other functions when selecting a tree or shrub for the landscape. The benefits of trees can be grouped into social, communal, environmental and economic categories.

Social Benefits
We like trees because they make life more pleasant. We feel serene or peaceful in a grove of trees. Hospital patients have been shown to recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees. Heroic efforts have been put forth by community residents and organizations to resist tree removal when widening streets or when particularly large or historic trees in a community are cut.

Trees potential for long-life make them appropriate living memorials and people often become personally attached to trees that we or those we love have planted.

Communal Benefits
Even though trees may be private property, their size often makes them part of the community as well. Since trees occupy considerable space, planning is required if both you and your neighbors are to benefit. With proper selection and maintenance, trees can enhance and function on one property without infringing on the rights and privileges of neighbors.

City trees often serve several architectural and engineering functions. They provide privacy, emphasize views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. They provide background, soften, complement, or enhance architecture.

Trees bring natural elements and wildlife habitats into urban surroundings, all of which increase the quality of life for residents of the community.

Economic Benefits
Property values of landscaped homes are 5-20% higher than those of non-landscaped homes.

Individual trees and shrubs have value; but the variability of species, size, condition, and function makes determining their economic value quite difficult. The economic benefits of trees can be both direct and indirect.

Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air conditioning costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees increase in value from the time they are planted to the time they mature. Trees are a wise investments of funds since landscaped homes are more valuable than non-landscaped homes. The savings in energy costs and the increase in property value directly benefit each homeowner.

The indirect economic benefits of trees are even greater. These are available to the community or region. Lowered electricity bills are paid by customers when power companies are able to use less water in their cooling towers, build fewer new facilities to meet peak demand, use reduced amounts of fossil fuel in their furnaces, and need fewer measures to control air pollution. Communities can also save if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region. To the individual these savings are small, but to the community, reductions in these expenses are often in the thousands of dollars.

Environmental Benefits
Trees alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife. Climate control is obtained by moderating the effects of the sun, wind and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in the winter. We are cooler when we stand in the shade of trees and are not exposed to direct sunlight. In winter, we value the sun’s radiant energy; and because of this, we should plant only small or deciduous trees on the south side of homes. Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees. The more compact the foliage on the tree or group of trees, the greater the influence of the windbreak. The downward fall of rain, sleet, and hail is initially absorbed or deflected by trees and this provides some protection for people, pets, and buildings. Trees intercept water, store some of it, reduce storm run-off, and the possibility of flooding. Dew and frost are less common under trees because less radiant energy is released from the soil in those areas at night.

Temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling. By using trees in the cities, we are able to moderate the heat island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas.

Air quality can be improved through the use of trees, shrubs, and turf. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain washes the pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the plant’s structure and function. In this process, leaves also absorb other air pollutants- such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide and give off oxygen.

By planting trees and shrubs, we return to a more natural, and less artificial environment. Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the area. The natural cycles of plant growth, reproduction, and decomposition are again present, both above and below ground. Natural harmony is restored to the urban environment.

Trees Require an Investment
Trees provide numerous aesthetic and economic benefits but also incur some costs. You need to be aware that an investment is required for your trees to provide the benefits that you desire. The biggest cost of trees and shrubs occurs when they are purchased and planted. Initial care almost always includes some watering. Leaf, branch, and whole tree removal and disposal can be expensive. To function well in the landscape, trees require maintenance. Much can be done by the informed homeowner. Corrective pruning and mulching will give trees a good start. Shade trees, however, quickly grow to a size that may require of a professional arborist. Arborists have the knowledge and equipment needed to prune, spray, fertilize, and otherwise maintain a large tree. Your garden center owner, cooperative extension agent, community forester, or consulting arborist can answer questions about tree maintenance, suggest treatments, or recommend qualified arborists.

Lukens Tree Preservation

A certified member of the International Society of Arboriculture.

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