Urban Trees Saving Lives

It’s estimated trees save an average of eight lives every year in New York City; just through their impact on reducing concentrations of fine particulate pollution.

A recent U.S. Forest Service and Davey Institute study found urban trees and forests are removing tons of fine particulate pollution in cities. Fine particulate matter is found in smoke and haze and is incredibly small – 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller.

Particles that are 10 micrometers or smaller can cause respiratory and heart issues.

“This research clearly illustrates that America’s urban forests are critical capital investments helping produce clear air and water; reduce energy costs; and, making cities more liveable,” said Michael T Rains, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station.

“Simply put, our urban forests improve people’s lives.”

The study, “Modeled PM2.5 Removal by Trees in Ten U.S. Cities and Associated Health Effects,” can be viewed here (PDF).

It’s easy to disregard small numbers, but 8 lives is, well – 8 lives. It could be the life of someone you know.

The benefits of trees in city areas extend well beyond the fine particulate cleanup. Urban trees and forests also:

– provide habitat for creatures
– reduce carbon dioxide
– reduce stormwater runoff
– improve water quality
– stabilize soils
– reduce urban heat island effect

Not to be underestimated is their aesthetic worth and how that can affect our moods. I remember living in a part of a city where there were few trees and found it terribly depressing. I was stuck in the area for some months and when I finally managed to escape, one of the first things I did was literally to hug a eucalyptus tree. Since that time I have never taken trees for granted. Each one is unique, each has a story and each is a wonder.

According to the Sustainable Cities Institute; there also are some major economic benefits associated with trees in urban areas; including raising property values, reducing heating and cooling bills and even reducing crime.

While on the topic of trees cleaning up the air – indoor plants can also help clean the air inside your home. Learn more about indoor plants as air filters and what species to keep.