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Benefits of Urban Trees

Updated on April 2, 2013
seh1101 profile image

Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a Certified Arborist that tends to focus on plant health.

Urban Oak Trees

Oak trees planted along a street
Oak trees planted along a street | Source

Urban Tree Benefits Overview

Trees within an urban environment provide more than a little shade and aesthetic value. Environmental improvements, aesthetic enhancements, economic savings, and social benefits are a few benefits of trees within urban areas. Urban areas with dense population are often separated from the natural world, but trees and plant life incorporated into urban landscapes can bring little pockets of nature into the urban sprawl.

Trees have costs attached when planting and maintaining them, along with problems like diseases and injuries, but the long term benefits far outweigh the initial cost to plant and establish them. Keeping a tree healthy will greatly reduce the chances of disease and poor health.

The environmental, aesthetic, economic, and social benefits are much more complex than what most people realize. The benefits of each will be covered below.

Soil Erosion

Erosion can occur in urban areas just like it can in rural farmland.
Erosion can occur in urban areas just like it can in rural farmland. | Source

Storm Runoff


Environmental Benefits

  • Improve air quality
  • Reduce greenhouse gases
  • Protects surroundings from weather
  • Cools air through transpiration
  • Reduce storm runoff
  • Slows erosion
  • Provides wildlife habitat

Environmental Benefits of Urban Trees

Environmental Benefits Overview
Trees make a very positive impact in terms of environmental improvement by improving air quality, sequestering carbon, conserving energy, reducing storm water runoff, and slowing erosion. Each of these benefits are very important to city life. One benefit always leads to another benefit when dealing with urban forestry. For example, trees give off oxygen through photosynthesis by collecting carbon dioxide from the air. This also causes the tree to filter airborne particulate pollutants and keep them from being released back into the environment. Many leaves are needed for photosynthesis to provide energy to the tree, so shade is in turn created which cools the ground and air around the tree. Neighboring buildings also benefit from being shaded and cooled. Wildlife within the urban environments use trees for habitat and protection, which increases diversity of local fauna. This chain of benefits can seem almost limitless.

Runoff & Erosion
Leaves and branches catch rainwater and slow down the flow of water onto streets and sidewalks. This can reduce the amount of waste water and erosion via storm water runoff. Roots also hold soil in place which reduces erosion as well.

Carbon Sequestration
Trees require carbon to grow and obtain the needed carbon element from the air in the form of carbon dioxide. The carbon is then stored in the wood and other tissues of the tree. This process is called carbon sequestration, and it is effective in reducing excess carbon within the atmosphere. High concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere increases carbon levels that trap the heat produced by the sun, causing what is known as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect can be reduced or entirely reversed if plant life is taking in more carbon than society is producing. Reversal is a very unlikely goal, but reduction of atmospheric carbon is key.

Shaded Courthouse

Trees lower cooling costs of buildings.
Trees lower cooling costs of buildings. | Source

Trees Outside Businesses

Trees increase potential customers to business areas.
Trees increase potential customers to business areas. | Source

Economic Benefits

  • Increases property values
  • Decrease rental vacancies
  • Increases tax base for municipalities
  • Attracts visitors, businesses, and new residents
  • Encourage customers to stay longer
  • Defer maintenance on hardscapes

Economic Benefits of Urban Trees

Increased property values, reduced cooling expenses, and attraction to businesses and residences are a few of the economic benefits of trees.

Heating & Cooling Cost Reductions
Trees that are properly located near and around buildings can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs. The amount of money saved depends on the regional climate, the location of trees in relation to the buildings, and the size and species of the trees. Large deciduous trees planted on the southern and western sides of a building usually contribute to reduction of air-conditioning costs. The leaves of deciduous trees fall during autumn and winter in colder regions of the world, which allows sunlight to pass through the branches and add some warmth to buildings. Evergreens provide great protection during winter against chilling northerly winds if placed on the northern side of the building. They also contribute to a reduction in heating costs.

Property Attraction & Values
Many studies have concluded that trees benefit business and residential areas. Trees tend to command a higher appraisal and sales value compared to residential properties that have little to no trees. Local governments can benefit by receiving more sales and property tax revenues. Businesses can attract more customers and customers tend to stay in the area longer when trees are properly placed along streets and entrances. The shade produced by trees keeps hardscapes cool, and also reduces the cost of repairing sidewalks, streets, and other hardscapes.

Trees in Playground

Natural settings improve behavior in children
Natural settings improve behavior in children | Source

Social Benefits

  • Reduce stress & mental fatigue
  • Enhance mental health
  • Increase hospital recovery rates
  • Enhance community pride
  • Increase recreational activities

Social Benefits of Urban Trees

Trees within urban environments provide very interesting social and psychological effects. People tend to be attracted to areas with trees, especially in cities where trees can be few and far between. The cultural importance of trees goes back many thousands of years and still remains important to this day.

Stress & Behavior
Studies have proven that trees and plant life can reduce stress in those who are exposed to them in a dense city sprawl. Hospitals often have trees, flower beds, gardens, and other types of landscaping to help improve morale and recovery rates. Behavior of children tends to improve when children are exposed to natural settings, and even crime has been said to slightly drop in such settings. Trees within therapeutic gardens and restorative settings are very important landscaping elements as well.

Cherry Tree Blossoms

Trees provide aesthetic beauty to landscapes.
Trees provide aesthetic beauty to landscapes. | Source

Aesthetic Benefits

  • Add beauty
  • Screen unwanted views
  • Increase privacy

Aesthetic Benefits of Urban Trees

The most obvious benefit of urban trees are aesthetic benefits. People generally recognize and appreciate the beauty of trees. Trees can provide a screen for unwanted views, ugly structures, and provide privacy between properties. Everyone has sat under a tree and felt the cool shade it provides.

Many people love the color changes of leaves induced by a cold autumn. Flowering trees provide attractive blooms and aromas during spring that many people enjoy. Trees emanate beauty around the world and are valuable to every culture on Earth.

Urban Trees Poll

Do you have trees nearby your place of residence?

See results


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    • wabash annie profile image

      wabash annie 3 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      Many many years ago, I grew up on a farm. My father made sure that there were groves of trees and ponds and kept a fencerow as well. Thanks for writing about this topic!

    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 4 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Agreed! Trees are definitely under-appreciated and incorrectly maintained a lot of the time.

    • lumen2light profile image

      lumen2light 4 years ago from Aberdeenshire, Scotland

      I so much agree with this, it seems like all the boffins and politicians do not understand the importance of the humble tree. They do so much for the environment, they contribute so much to our way of life, yet not appreciated as much as they should be.