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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Sink Some Roots

Having roots in your community can have a lot of meanings.  But have you ever taken this phrase literally?  Do you have trees in your yard?  The roots that trees have provide a number of benefits to the communities that you live in and the tree's canopy can provide benefits to you.  Trees provide a number of benefits to the communities that you live in and to you as a home owner or resident.

One of the big benefits that trees have is controlling water runoff.  Consider that one inch of rain per acre of land is about 27,154 gallons of water.  Trees reduce stormwater runoff in three major ways: trees take up water through their roots; the leaves and bark intercept the water; and trees increase the organic matter in the soil.  A community or neighborhood that has a well-planned urban ecosystem can reduce runoff by as much as 65%.

Trees take water up through the roots.  Depending on the species and size of the tree research has shown that a tree can draw up to 100 gallons of water per day.  Multiply that by the number of trees in your yard, neighborhood, or city and that adds up to a large amount of water not rushing into the storm drains.

Trees also intercept water with its leaves and bark.  I am sure that you have noticed this when you have stood under a tree when it suddenly starts to rain.  This water is either released slowly into the soil or it evaporates before it even reaches the soil.  This further reduces the amount of water that is allowed to enter the storm drains.

Trees increase the amount of organic material that is in the soil through the leaf and needles that they drop.  The increase of organic material in the soil increases the amount of water that can be stored in the soil.  As the leaves and needles decompose they increase the organic material in the soil and the organic material acts like a sponge absorbing more water.

Trees also provide some major benefits to the residents of the communities.  Studies done have suggested that the property values increase between 6% and 11% when trees and other landscaping are present compared to similar properties without.  Other studies suggest that though the property value does not increase the salability of the property is increased when trees and landscaping are present.

Trees can also reduce utility costs to homeowners.  Trees that are planted to shade the south side of a home can reduce costs associated with cooling the home in the summer and evergreen trees planted to the north and east of a home can act as wind breaks and reduce heating costs in the winter.

Trees also provide some significant health benefits.  Many studies have been done and show that trees can reduce the pollution within a community.  They remove pollutants like ozone, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates.  They are also carbon sinks and will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide within a community.  Trees and nature also provide relief from mental and physical fatigue and stress.

Take some time to put some roots in your community and plant a tree.


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