3 Major Benefits of Urban Forests
In case you hadn’t noticed, trees are kind of a big deal. But, they are of particular importance to cities. Many of the city governments in the Portland metro area have Urban Forestry programs and pages upon pages of codes in place to protect what trees are left in the wake of urban sprawl. In the City of Portland, there are “236,000 street trees, 1.2 million park trees, and innumerable private property trees” according their website. The canopy of Portland’s urban forest covers nearly 30 percent of the city, and although the Portland City Council continues to waffle on a management plan, they’re happy to watch that coverage increase.
Why are urban forests so important, you ask? Let us count the reasons.
Preserving Our Environment
Trees clean the air, water and soil that surrounds us. They feed on Carbon Dioxide and trap other chemical and particulate pollutants, such as methane and smoke. This makes a healthy urban forest our most formidable opponent against the atmospheric greenhouse effect, or Global Warming.
Trees also help the soil retain water and maintain permeability, which is threatened by paving.
Additionally, trees help modify the local climate by creating shade, which allows us to use less energy for air conditioning.
Improving Our Cities
Studies have shown that trees can have a significant positive effect on a local economy. Experts suggest that tree-lined streets attract consumers and tourists and encourage them to shop and dine a little longer. Research will also tell you that real estate in wooded areas, both commercial and residential, is bought and rented more quickly.
Furthermore, The U.S. Forest Service conducted a crime study in Southeast Portland a few years back and found that “Street trees, a bigger tree canopy and more trees were all associated with less crime.”
Bettering Our Health
Most of us have experienced what a few hours in nature can do for your mood. In Japan they have a word for this. Shinrin-yoku means “forest bathing.” It’s peaceful and exhilarating all at the same time. However, research is beginning to show that there are measurable benefits to our minds and bodies when we spend even five minutes with the trees.
Studies suggest that spending time in nature can boost your immune system and your ability to recover from surgeries, it gives you more energy, lowers your blood pressure and your stress level, and allow you to focus more and sleep better.
So, it’s no wonder we go to such great lengths to protect our trees. They make everything better!
Interested in contributing to your local urban forest? Check out the Neighborhood Tree Steward Program or contact your local city government to find out how you can help.