If you are looking for reasons to care about tree loss, then this summer’s record-breaking heat wave may be just that. According to a recent study, trees can reduce the temperature during the summer day by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
But tree coverage in American cities is shrinking. A study published by the U.S. Forest Service last year found that we lost 36 million trees from urban and rural communities every year over a five-year period. From 2009 to 2014, it dropped by 1%.
If we continue along this path, “Cities will become warmer, more polluted, and generally less healthy for residents,” said David Novak, a senior scientist at the U.S. Forest Service and co-author of the study. (David Nowak) said.
Novak said that our tree canopy has fallen for many reasons, including hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, insects and diseases. But one reason for the disappearance of trees that humans can control is rational development.
Novak said: “We saw that the tree cover was replaced with an impervious cover, which means that when we look at the photos, things there are now replaced by parking lots or buildings.”
Novak said that more than 80% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, and most Americans live in forested areas on the east and west coasts.
“Every time we build a road, we build a building, we cut a tree or add a tree, which will not only affect that place, but also the area.”
The study evaluated tree loss based on the role of trees in eliminating air pollution and energy conservation.
The value lost every year amounts to 96 million U.S. dollars.
Novak list 10 benefits provided by trees to the society:
Heat reduction: Trees provide shade for homes, office buildings, parks and roads and reduce surface temperature. They also absorb and evaporate moisture, cooling the surrounding air. “In the hot weather, walk in the shade of the trees. You can’t get it from the grass,” Novak said. According to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in order to obtain sufficient temperature benefits, the canopy coverage area should exceed 40% of the area to be cooled. “A city block almost needs to be covered by a leafy network of branches and leaves,” the author wrote.
reduce air pollution: Trees absorb carbon and remove pollutants from the atmosphere.
Energy reduction: According to Novak’s research, trees can reduce energy costs by US$4 billion each year. “The shadows of those trees on the building can reduce your air-conditioning costs. Take those trees away; now your building is heating up, you are running your air-conditioning more, you are burning more fuel from the power plant, so Pollution and emissions have increased.”
Water quality improvement: Trees act as water filters, absorbing dirty surface water and absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil.
Flood reduction: Trees reduce flooding by absorbing water and reducing runoff into streams.
Noise reduction: Trees can deflect sound, which is one of the reasons you will see them line up on both sides of highways, fences, and between roads and communities. They can also increase the sound by birdsong and wind blowing through leaves, and these noises have shown psychological benefits.
UV radiation protection: Novak said that trees absorb 96% of ultraviolet radiation.
Improved aesthetics: Ask any real estate agent, architect or city planner: tree and leaf mulch can improve the appearance and value of any property.
Improve human health: Many studies have found that there is a link between exposure to nature and better physical and mental health. As a result of these studies, some hospitals have added trees and plants to patients. Because there is evidence that exposure to nature lowers blood pressure and stress hormones, doctors even prescribe a walk in nature for children and families. Studies have shown that living near green spaces has a lower mortality rate.
Wildlife habitat: Birds rely on trees for shelter, food and nesting. Around the world, forests provide a huge diversity of animals.
Novak said that trees also have shortcomings, such as pollen allergies or large branches falling during storms, “and people don’t like to rake leaves.” However, he said that cities and counties can manage trees in many ways to help communities thrive. “You can’t just say,’We won’t have forests’. We might as well manage and use trees.”
“You don’t want to have a tree in the middle of the baseball field. If there are trees blocking the way, it is difficult to play sports. Or trees in the middle of the highway.”
Novak said that we can design and manage tree canopies in cities to help “affect the air, affect the water, and affect our well-being.”
Urban forests especially need our help to replace fallen trees. Unlike rural areas, it is difficult for trees to grow again in an urban environment with so many roads and asphalt.
“Many of our native trees can’t actually find a place to drop acorns, so they can regenerate,” explained Greg Levine, co-executive director of Trees Atlanta.
“This is why the community must enter and actually plant a tree, because these areas are no longer natural.”
When the sapling took root, the work was not finished yet. Organizations like Trees Atlanta and their volunteers plan to take care of these young trees most of the year until they are mature enough to thrive on their own.
“We tried to prune the trees for 10 years to ensure that they have a good healthy structure.” Levine added. “We are also adding mulch around the trees to help maintain moisture in the soil so that the trees do not dry out. When planting trees around the sidewalk, we must have a lot of patience to ensure that they can meet the challenges.”
Protect what you have: Novak said that the first step is to take care of the trees on your own property. “We think we pay for our house, so we have to maintain it. But because we don’t pay for nature, we don’t need it. This is not necessarily true.”
Prune off the dead branches on the tree: If they are small enough, you can do it yourself or hire a company. Novak said that when trees are maintained, the risk of limb damage to the house is significantly reduced.
Please be aware of where your trees may be in trouble: Usually, you can observe when problems occur, such as when branches fall and break, or when mushrooms are growing on roots or on trees. You can also hire an arborist or canopy expert to assess the health of your trees every year. Or you can contact your local agricultural extension office for advice.
If it is not necessary, do not remove the old tree: Instead, try to take smaller actions, such as deleting the branch. “It takes a long time for these big trees to grow up: 50 to 100 years. And once they are established, they can live for a long time. But pulling out a big tree and saying,’we want to replant’, does not guarantee the success of the small tree. And it takes a long time to grow.”
Allow trees to grow on your property: Although everyone has a different aesthetic, this is a cheap way to get a cooler yard and lower energy bills. This is also a cheap flood and noise control method.
Novak said that when his neighbors wanted to know why there weren’t more trees in their house, he smiled because “I heard someone was driving a lawnmower.” The fallen seeds needed a chance to be planted. Pruning can prevent this from happening. If you don’t like the place where the seedling grows, you can dig it out and plant it or a new tree where you like.
Learn about trees and get involved: Many cities have established tree regulations to protect very old and important trees. You can participate by attending city council meetings. You can also join a local non-profit organization to help your city plant trees.
Volunteer or donate to tree planting and research institutions:
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