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Trees Do More Then Just Look Good

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Next Friday, April 28th is Arbor Day. The day to celebrate trees and to plant trees. Of course in my mind I don't need a specific day to plant trees, but Arbor Day is a great way to bring awareness to the importance of trees in the environment and communities.

In past articles, I've written about proper tree planting and the where to's and the how to's. This time I'm going to take a different direction when talking about trees and focus on the benefits they provide us. I think most of us would agree there is a distinctive difference in feelings between being in an area that has trees versus an area that doesn't. So what else can trees do besides making us feel more relaxed?

Trees help us to reduce atmospheric CO2 by absorbing it from the environment and then sequestering ("locking up") the CO2 in the roots, twigs, and trunk. Let's put this into perspective of why this is important.

  • A mid-size sedan driving an average of 12,000 miles a year releases 11,000 lbs of CO2 into the environment.
  • A 15" diameter White Oak can sequester approximately 450 lbs of CO2 each year
  • A 20" diameter White Oak can sequester approximately 600 lbs of CO2 each year.

Think about the number of cars on the road each and every day, imagine what would happen if there weren't trees to absorb some of those emissions? There is a lot of research out there that has calculated the impacts of trees and the amount of CO2 they are able to sequester. The above rates came from the website www.treebenefits.com which is the National Tree Benefit Calculator that was created as a joint effort between Casey Trees and Davey Tree Care Company. If you visit the website you can enter in your zip code, tree species, diameter, and the location and see the estimated benefits including CO2 sequestration as well as storm water runoff, property value increases, air quality improvement, and energy use reduction.

Energy use reduction is associated with choosing planting locations and tree species to help reduce heating and cooling costs on buildings. A deciduous tree that shades a house in summer will keep it cooler and then when loses its leaves in the fall allows more sun to reach the house keeping it warmer. This leads to a reduction in therm and kilowatt hour usage. The other benefit is that this can also lead to further reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere as lower utility usage results in lower emissions.

Benefits of trees goes beyond just the environment. Research from the University of Illinois Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (LHHL) has conducted research on the impacts of green space on people including children with ADD. Research showed that children with ADD were able to focus better after having been in green space or having taken a walk in a park or natural setting. They have even done studies showing the relationship to green space and crime rates. The more green space the lower the crime rates. You can read more by visiting the LHHL website: http://lhhl.illinois.edu/index.htm.

In 2012 The US Forest Service released a study having looked at 20 different cities in the US and estimated that as a whole we are losing approximately 4 million trees per year in urban areas. Knowing just some of the benefits that trees provide – the best thing you can do this year is plant a tree. There is a wealth of information available in regards to tree selection and proper planting on the University of Illinois Extension website as well as the International Society of Arboriculture website www.treesaregood.com.



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