Carbon Sequestration, Improved Air Quality. Trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere which improves air quality and helps to reduce our carbon footprint. Moreover, trees and landscaping help to absorb pollutants and particles in the air, improving overall air quality.
Trees are crucial to the sequestration of carbon from the earth’s atmosphere and can play a important role in reducing humanity’s carbon footprint. Research has proven that large trees can absorb significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere each year, as the tree absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen through respiration. As such, trees and other landscape plants serve as an important tool in improving air quality in cities. Trees and landscaped areas absorb particles in the air that would otherwise pollute the atmosphere. Increasing urban green spaces will help to mitigate a city’s already existing poor air quality, which can oftentimes be so poor that it adversely affects the population. Trees and landscape plants also help to absorb odors in the air. (Bisco Werner 1996; Brethour 2007; Erase Carbon Footprint 2010; Frank 2003; Geiger 2004; Harnik 2009; Maco 2003; McPherson 2004; Nowak 2005; Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Assn. 2009; Phmer 2008; Schwartz 2009; Stavins 2005; The Trust for Public Land 2008; Wolf, 1998, 2004b; Yang 2009)
Attract Wildlife and Promote Biodiversity. Parks and urban green spaces attract wildlife, which both increases the natural beauty of an area and contributes to biodiversity.
Cultivating urban green spaces is an effective way to help wildlife thrive in otherwise inhospitable areas. Giving animals a natural refuge from highly populated areas minimizes the likelihood of animal populations being adversely affected by urban sprawl. Maintaining urban biodiversity is an important aspect of keeping a city environmentally friendly. Biodiversity is sustained through the balance between ecosystems, populations, and their habitats, and ensuring that local animal populations have a place to live is a key aspect of sustaining this biodiversity. (Brethour 2007, Burghardt 2008, Dearborn 2009, Millennium Ecosystem Assn. 2005, Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Assn. 2009)
Energy Savings. Planting a tree on the western side of a building can greatly reduce the amount of money spent on heating and cooling the building. Saving energy helps to save the environment by reducing demand on electrical grids.
Planting trees around a building can significantly reduce the sun’s effect on the temperature of the outer walls and lower the associated cost of energy for heating and cooling. By planting trees on the western side of a building, you can minimize the sun’s impact on the wall’s temperature. In turn, this means that heating and cooling the building will require less energy, reducing the environmental impact that the building will have on the community. Planting trees around a building or business is not only a positive step towards reducing energy consumption, but it also has a fiscal benefit as well. (Bradshaw 1993; Frank 2003; Maco 2003; Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Assn. 2009; Pohmer 2008)
Offset Heat Islands. Green spaces offset the heat islands that often occur in cities comprised mainly of cement and asphalt. This creates a more enjoyable urban environment and reduces cooling costs.
Most cities are composed mainly of cement and asphalt, which absorbs a lot of heat from the sun’s rays during the daylight hours. This can make city life uncomfortable and hot, especially for people who choose to walk along pedestrian walkways. The inclusion of urban green spaces in a city’s landscape can offset the urban heat islands that often occur. Trees and other landscaping plants absorb heat and sunlight, reducing the temperature on the ground and significantly diminishing the amount of discomfort that citizens have to endure daily. This reduces cooling costs and creates a much more enjoyable urban environment for residents of a community. (Bradshaw 1993, Brethour 2007, Nowak 2005, U.S. Department of Energy 1993)
Reduce Noise Pollution. Trees and urban green spaces help reduce the amount of noise in a neighborhood. By absorbing noise pollution they improve the quality of life in the community for humans and wildlife alike.
Trees and urban green spaces can help to reduce the amount of noise in neighborhoods benefitting both human and animal populations. Noise and light pollution can cause animals to shift activity patterns, urban pollutants can cause physiological stress, and the loss of top predators can cause mesopredator release. Landscaped areas absorb noise pollution, everyday sound waves which can often be abrasive and annoying to residents. By installing natural landscaping noise pollution levels can be reduced by 6 to 15 decibels, or as humans perceive it one third as loud (Brethour, 2010). Planting trees and creating urban green spaces offsets this problem, and beautifies areas for both the eyes and ears. This improves the quality of life for both the human population in a community and the local wildlife who may be affected by unwanted noise. (Brethour 2007, Dearborn 2009, Frank 2003, Nowak 2005)
Reduce Soil Erosion. Trees and urban green spaces reduce the amount of soil lost due to erosion from rainwater. This helps to preserve landscaped areas and keep the ground healthy.
Planting trees and cultivating landscaped areas is an effective way to reduce the amount of soil lost due to erosion. Tree roots and plant roots create an infrastructure below the surface that helps to anchor the soil in place during torrential downpours and holds 20 times more soil than traditional tilled soil (Brethour 26). Above the surface, plant foliage and surface cover helps to reduce the wind’s negative effects on topsoil, reducing the amount of soil lost as dust in the air. Urban green spaces also protect the quality of the soil, ensuring that it remains sufficiently supplied with nutrients and minerals so that it is hospitable to plant life. Planting trees and landscaping is an efficient way to safeguard the quality of the soil and to ensure that erosion does not occur. (Brethour 2007, Frank 2003)
Reduce Heating/Cooling Costs. Trees moderate the average temperature of an urban area by absorbing heat waves and cold air, thus reducing the cost of heating and cooling a building.
Trees absorb heat and wind power, reducing the environment’s impact on the temperature of a building. Planting trees around an apartment building or business can significantly reduce the cost of heating and cooling the building, and in turn reduces the amount of energy consumed. Trees offset the power of heat waves and cold air, creating a sort of barrier between the walls of the building and the elements. Not only does this affect the building’s temperature, it also protects the building from other negative effects of the weather, such as gradual wearing away of the walls. Surrounding a building with trees and landscaping is an effective way to protect it from the elements and reduce heating and cooling costs. (Bisco Werner 1996; Brethour 2007; Frank 2003; Geiger 2004; McPherson 2004; Nowak 2005; ScienceDaily 2009; U.S. Department of Energy 1993; Wolf, 1998, 2004b)
Reduce Storm Water Runoff / Improved Water Quality. Urban green spaces create a natural way to absorb storm water, thus reducing the amount of runoff that the city has to deal with. This also helps to improve current water purification methods by reducing the amount of dirty water going into the system.
Trees and landscaping significantly reduce the amount of storm water runoff resulting from rainfall events. Green spaces absorb water in two ways: above the surface through the leaves and below ground through the root system. By absorbing water, trees and plants reduce the amount of runoff that the city has to deal with, pump out, or purify. This reduces the cost of storm water treatment plants and saves the city money. Landscaping is a natural solution to reducing storm water runoff. Landscaping also improves water quality by reducing the amount of dirty storm water that the city has to purify makes current purification methods more effective. Moreover, landscaping absorbs some of the pollutants in the water, meaning that there is less pollution in the water that the city has to purify. Plants and trees improve water quality by ensuring that current purification methods can effectively treat reasonable amounts of runoff (Brethour 2007; Frank 2003; Geiger 2004; Harnik 2009; Maco 2003; McPherson 2004; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005; Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Assn. 2009; Pohmer 2008; Schwartz 2009; The Trust for Public Land 2008; Wolf, 1998, 2004b)
Reduce Urban Glare. Green spaces reduce the “urban glare” effect by absorbing heat and light. This improves overall quality of life and is beneficial to the environment.
Urban glare is the excessive reflection of sunlight off of reflective surfaces such as windows and buildings. Green spaces reduce urban glare in cities by absorbing light. By installing urban green spaces, city planners can reduce the urban glare effect with strategically placed landscaping. Landscaping is an effective way to capture the light and deflect it so that the light in the city is not so harsh and unpleasant for residents, improving the quality of life in the community. (Brethour 2007)
Windbreak. Urban green spaces help to block and absorb wind, which helps preserve natural environments, reduce wind-related erosion, and reduces the need for expensive heating/cooling.
Urban green spaces can reduce the harmful effects of wind in cities, trees and other ornamental shrubs by slowing the wind down and greatly diminishing its strength. Reducing wind strength helps to preserve delicate natural environments which could be harmed by high speed wind. Minimizing wind strength also reduces soil erosion due to wind gusts, keeping soil healthy and hospitable for new growth. Moreover, it would reduce the need for extensive heating and cooling in buildings by moderating the effects that wind would have on temperature. (Brethour 2007, Pohmer 2008)