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Urban forests help manage heat, noise, biodiversity

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Urban forests help manage heat, noise, biodiversity

Forests are very beneficial to the health and well-being of our planet. They provide oxygen, remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and are homes to hundreds of species of animals and an essential part of our ecosystem. When most people think of a forest, they usually picture the Amazon rain forest or the temperate forests of North America. While those examples are correct, many do not consider a type of forest that is in their own backyard, such as the urban forest. An urban forest is a population of trees that grows in an urban setting, such as neighborhoods, the sides of streets or highways, and parks. Urban forests are just as important as a long-standing forest for human and animal life for a variety of reasons.

Urban forests help reduce air pollutants like dust particles, methane, ash and smoke by trapping and holding them through the pores on the leaf surface, so our lungs do not have to breathe them in. Trees also absorb one of the largest pollutants to our health, carbon dioxide, by taking in that harmful gas and storing it in their roots and trunk then releasing oxygen into the atmosphere that humans and animals breathe.

Not only do roots of trees help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide, but they also reduce the amount of wind erosion by holding the dirt particles together. Keeping the topsoil in place, wind is unable to blow the dirt particles away. Trees also reduce water runoff during storms and even lessen the amount of chemicals transported to streams. Trees also increase the groundwater recharge that is weakened due to paving. Without trees cities would need more storm drainage runoff and sewage management to carry the water and waste runoff that trees would otherwise prevent.

Along with decreasing the amount of runoff and chemicals, trees also cut back on the quantity of energy used in homes. Trees that drop their leaves in the fall can keep homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter by providing shade with their leaves that blocks the majority of the heat. Then, they let in more sunlight when the leaves are gone. Trees also obstruct wind, which can keep homes warmer in the winter months. Leaving homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter reduces the amount of fossil fuels burned to heat and cool a home, which can save you money and the environment’s ecosystem.

In addition to lowering energy costs, trees help maintain the local climate by lowering the air temperature through shade, reducing the sun intensity on brighter days, blocking heavy winds, and increasing humidity in dry climates through moisture evaporating off the tree. These factors help the environment stay in more moderate and mild temperatures, rather than be dominated by extreme ones. Trees reduce the heat island effect of urban areas, as well. When the sun is reflected off an asphalt parking lot, it traps the heat and reflects it back to the environment, creating a space where there is no escape from the heat. If trees were planted in and out of the parking lot, then it would limit the heat island effect by providing shade.

Having a home or area surrounded by trees will not only preserve your local climate and keep your heating and cooling bill low, but block noise pollution as well. Trees muffle the sounds of traffic, making a more quiet and peaceful habitat for people and animals living in the surrounding area. Having less noise in an area reduces stress and attracts more people to living in that area. Trees also increase the property value in homes, and are a beautiful addition to any landscape.

Finally, trees provide a home to a wide diversity of life that otherwise would not survive in cities. Trees are homes to many different species of birds and other small animals and plants, creating a wide variety of biodiversity. Biodiversity is a very important part of environmental health for both trees and the animals that live among them, including us, because habitats that have a large array of plants and animals can recover from a natural disaster much faster and ensure sustainability for all life forms.

Though urban forests do not take the place of an average longstanding forest, nevertheless they are extremely important to communities such as ours, as well as larger cities, in sustaining a population’s ecological health and well-being. To help communities become more eco-friendly and sustainable, people can plant more trees in your neighborhood, avoid unhealthy practices that might hinder a tree’s growth and development, and remove a tree when it is dying or dead so as to make room for younger, healthier trees. Forests are very beneficial to our health, and the urban forest is no exception.


Written by vaphc

July 27, 2012 at 10:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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