Trees and shrubs in towns and villages are planted to provide beauty or shade
Updated: Aug 30, 2018
Unlike commercial woodlands, most trees and shrubs in towns and villages are planted to provide beauty or shade. Whilst these are excellent benefits, what other benefits do trees provide?
There are numerous benefits that trees provide and these can be grouped into four areas - social, communal, environmental, and economic.
Human response to trees goes well beyond simply observing their beauty. We feel serene, peaceful, restful, and tranquil in and around trees. We are 'at home' there. The calming effect of nearby trees and urban greening can significantly reduce workplace stress levels and fatigue, calm traffic, and even decrease the recovery time needed after surgery. It has been shown that recovery times in hospitals are faster if the patient can see trees from their window. Trees can also reduce crime. Residential buildings with larger areas of green space including trees have lower crime rates than those without trees.
The stature, strength, and endurance of trees give them a cathedral-like quality. Because of their potential for long life, trees are frequently planted as living memorials. We often become personally attached to trees that we, or those we love, have planted. The national arboretum and local planting schemes are both examples of this emotional link. The strong tie between people and trees is often evident when trees come under threat; communities speak out against the removal of trees for development or rally to save a particularly large or historic tree. Our planning system even enables protection of trees through Conservation Areas and Tree Preservation Orders.
Even when located on private land, the benefits provided by trees can reach well out into the surrounding community. Likewise, large-growing trees can come in conflict with utilities, views and structures that are beyond the bounds of the owner's property. With proper selection and maintenance, trees can enhance and function on one property without infringing on the rights and privileges of neighbours.
City and town trees often serve several architectural and engineering functions. They provide privacy, emphasise views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. Trees also provide background to and soften, complement, or enhance architecture.
Trees bring natural elements and wildlife habitats into urban surroundings, all of which increase the quality of life for residents of the community.
Trees alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, reducing storm water runoff and harbouring wildlife. Local climates are moderated from extreme sun, wind and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in winter. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling effect. By using trees in towns and cities, we can moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavements and buildings.
Wind speed and direction is affected by trees. The more compact the foliage on the tree or group of trees, the more effective the windbreak. Rainfall, sleet, and hail are absorbed or slowed by trees, providing some protection for people, animals and buildings. Trees intercept water, store some of it and reduce storm water run-off.
Air quality is improved through the use of trees and shrubs. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes the pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and store carbon as growth. Leaves also absorb other air pollutants such as ozone, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide, and release oxygen.
By planting trees and shrubs, we return developed areas to a more natural environment that is attractive to birds and wildlife. Ecological cycles of plant growth, reproduction and decomposition are again present, both above and below ground. Natural harmony is restored to the urban environment.
Property values of landscaped homes are 5 to 20 percent higher than those of non-landscaped homes. Individual trees and shrubs have value, but the variability of species, size, condition and function makes determining their economic value difficult. Trees increase in value as they grow. Trees, as part of a well maintained landscape, can add value to your home.
The indirect economic benefits of trees within a community are even greater. If we use less energy to cool or warm our homes due to the benefits of trees, then power suppliers build fewer new facilities to meet peak demands, use reduced amounts of fossil fuel in their furnaces, and use fewer measures to control air pollution. Communities can also save money if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region. To the individual, these savings may seem small, but to the community as a whole, reductions in these expenses are often substantial.