Does Money Grow on Trees After All?

How can a city benefit from trees? As calculated by Dan Burden, growing trees might be the best long-term investment for a city – a single street tree returns over 80,000 € of direct benefits in its lifetime. Here’s a quick look at some of the most prominent positions for hiring trees that research has thrown light upon so far.

  1. Trees increase property values

This is not surprising as trees create a tapestry of colour, fragrance and interesting form that changes throughout the year, screen unattractive views and soften the harsh contours of buildings. Trees help residential and commercial properties to rent more quickly and to have a higher occupancy rate. They can add up to 15 percent to residential property value and where the entire street is tree-lined, homes may be worth 25% more.

  1. Trees increase business and commercial activity

An abundant tree canopy can attract new residents, tourists and businesses into a neighbourhood. Studies show that people like to spend more time and money in districts with more trees. In addition, having offices with a view of nature and access to green areas during breaks translates into healthier, more productive and satisfied employees.

  1. Trees reduce energy expenditure

Strategically placed trees around a building can reduce summer cooling costs by as much as 30%, while in winter heating costs can be reduced by a similar percentage with the use of trees as windbreaks. A tree is a natural air conditioner and can produce the cooling effect of ten room-size, residential air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. Neighborhoods well-shaded with street trees can be up to 6-10 degrees cooler.

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Urban trees provide many benefits for a city and its residents
  1. Trees reduce water management costs

Trees reduce stormwater management costs and produce better water quality. They act as natural water filters and prevent harmful land pollutants contained in the soil from getting into our waterways. They significantly slow the movement of stormwater, which lowers total runoff volume, soil erosion and flooding.

  1. Trees reduce costs for meeting regulatory pollution requirements

Trees contribute to meeting a city’s regulatory clean air requirements by capturing more than 60% of the particulate air pollution. They remove dust, particulates, absorb ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants. Estimates show that over a 50-year lifetime, a tree provides more than 50,000 € worth of air pollution control. Trees also act as sound buffers and reduce noise pollution by absorbing and blocking more than 40% of urban noise.

  1. Trees reduce health care costs

Trees catch air pollutants that damage human lungs which enhances a community’s respiratory health and ameliorates respiratory problems, such as asthma. They provide protection against ozone-associated health issues. Studies show that hospital patients with a view of trees out their windows recover much faster and with fewer complications. Time spent in nature not only promotes greater physical activity, but also reduces stress, eye strain and lowers blood pressure.

  1. Trees increase security and strength of a community

Trees lower anxious and violent behaviour – the greener the neighbourhood, the lower the crime rate. In homes surronded by trees there is less domestic violence and child abuse than in barren conditions. Trees also create a physical barrier between the street and the sidewalk, keeping pedestrians, children and pets out of harm’s way. Urban nature creates popular meeting places, inviting citizens to spend time together relaxing, walking, jogging or playing. These activities encourage interaction, bring neighbours together and strengthen urban communities.

As shown, urban trees provide a wide array of solutions to a city’s welfare and resilience. A city with an abundance of trees is a rich, sociably stable, safe and healthy city.

Author: Anita Mašek, Slovenian Forestry Institute

Featured photo by star5112.

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How safe are urban forests?

Urban forests and green spaces should be safe and calm places. But is this really so? Read more in this blog post by Ana Simčič, a forestry engineer from Slovenia.

Cities that are surrounded by forests and have more green areas provide more quality lifestyle for their citizens. Recreation in urban forests and other green areas is one of the most appreciated and desired forest services in urban area. Jogging, walking or just hanging out with friends in urban forests is popular spending of free time during afternoons and weekends. But where more people gather, it is more likely that there will be undesired impacts left. Unfortunately, those impacts are sometimes consequences of violence that is called vandalism. It is an action involving deliberate destruction or damaging public or private property. It is a common phenomenon in public places in cities but apparently it is also inevitable in urban forests. In most cases things that are attacked by vandals are sign boards, picnic places with benches and tables, bins and also plants. But it becomes scary when vandals decide to damage trees.

My aunt once said that she is afraid of forests, because they are dark quiet places, where you can run into strange people. I thought it was so funny and was thinking that forests are probably more afraid of us than we are afraid of them. And this is not that funny anymore. Forests can live without us, but we can’t live without them. So why should they be afraid of us?

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Damaged wooden bench in urban forest of Crikvenica, Croatia (photo: Ana Simčič)

Vandalism is common in public areas during night or in places that are not so crowded during the day. The widespread popularity of outdoor team sports in green spaces offers many opportunities to improve health and fitness, build strong community links with young people, burn off excess energy, develop a sense of pride in physical skills and ability. It is a key element in the reduction of juvenile crime and vandalism. But still, urban forests are usually quiet, shaded and cover big areas so vandals have many locations to hide and do the damage. Unfortunately, trees are defenseless and can be an easy target for vandals. Whether the damage is caused by someone who is deliberately trying to kill a tree, or by lovers or taggers carving their initials into the bark, the end result is the same.

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Damaged urban tree

Sensitive layers of tissue lie just under the bark of a tree. This area should be protected from wounding, since wounded tissue provide an opening for pathogens and result in tree diseases.

Vandalism leaves many consequences:

  1. Fear of crime. Crime, the fear of crime, disorder and anti-social behavior in green spaces are some of the things that worry people and discourage them from using those spaces for relaxation and recreation.
  2. Investors are discouraged from the investments in new infrastructure if there are problems with vandalism or if there are abandoned areas nearby.
  3. Urgent replacement costs of broken items.
  4. Ruined aesthetics of landscape. Damaged items will give us a feeling of abandoned and dangerous place.

Vandal behavior of just a few offenders may affect all visitors in urban forests and other green spaces. We all want to enjoy nature to release our everyday worries. When we come to forests our worries should be gone and not feeling even more stressed because of damaged surroundings and injured trees.

This blog post is authored by Ana Simčič and is a part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.