The value of trees to a community

By Lynette L. Walther | Jul 03, 2014
Damage like this can invite insect invasion or water rot and eventually kill the tree.

The recent cutting of a number of trees along residential streets and reports of 100-plus-year-old trees being cut down have angered residents. While I will not speak as to why the town is culling the trees, it is accepted that trees always come with risks — falling branches, the mess of leaves in the fall, dangers to utility lines and the like. But few would argue that a community and its residents benefit in the long run from an abundance of trees.

For the resident, trees can add value to their home, help cool their home and neighborhood, break the cold winds to lower heating and cooling costs, provide privacy and provide food and habitat for wildlife. But the advantages for a community are multiplied many times more and for many reasons by its trees. Here are some facts from a variety of sources on just how important trees are in a community setting:

• “The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” — U.S. Department of Agriculture

• “If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in five years your energy bills should be 3 percent less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12 percent.” — Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research

• “A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.” — Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers

• “In one study, 83 percent of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the saleability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98 percent.” — Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests

• “Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.” — Management Information Services/ICMA

• “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” — U.S. Department of Agriculture

• “There are about 60– to 200-million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs.” — National Wildlife Federation

• “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 to 50 percent in energy used for heating.” — USDA Forest Service

• “Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent.” —The Arbor Day Foundation • “Healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value.” — USDA Forest Service

• “The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.” — USDA Forest Service

• “In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.” — Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University

• “Nationally, the 60 million street trees have an average value of $525 per tree.” — Management Information Services

In addition, Maria Zampini reported in her online newsletter, “Upshoot,” that trees can be credited with:

• Lowering your heart rate

• Providing beauty and shade

• Improving your property value — boost your homes resale value by up to 15 percent and its sale by five to six weeks

• Cleaning the air and water — one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere equaling 11,000 miles of car emissions

• Creating a more inviting yard and community

Here are a couple examples of how trees were honored and renewed in two cities:

In New York City to help locate its heritage trees, the City Department of Parks and Recreation conducted a program called the “Great Tree Search.” New Yorkers looked for trees of unusual size and age, those linked with historic landmarks, and trees of unusual species or location. On Arbor Day, they held a big party to celebrate New York City’s Great Trees.

After a tornado destroyed more than 800 trees in Cardington, Ohio, citizens organized a tree restoration committee which solicited donations and memorials. Volunteers who learned of the tree planting through local newspaper articles appeared on Arbor Day to wrap trunks, water, mulch, and stake 40 large trees which were planted along major streets.

There is an old adage that the best time to plant a tree is yesterday, and the next best is today. Trees are an investment in both the present and the future. As trees die or are cut down, planting new trees is necessary to maintain those many benefits that only trees offer and it ensures the legacy of trees will be there tomorrow too. Is there anything else as easy and inexpensive that can pull all that off? Besides that, nothing can compare to the shade of a tree on a hot July afternoon.

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the Garden Writers Association’s Silver Award of Achievement, and she gardens in Camden. Got questions, or comments? Visit her blog, and join in the conversation at: gardeningonthego.wordpress.com or ”friend” her on Facebook to see what’s new in the garden day-by-day.

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