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The many health and wellbeing benefits of trees in urban areas

Posted on: August 29th, 2018

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The UK’s towns and cities continue to grow. More and more housing and commercial developments are expanding our urban areas, swallowing up green space and increasing the risk of overcrowding and pollution. Our natural landscape is being placed under more strain than ever before, with the countryside falling victim to the need of more housing.

Therefore is it imperative that further planning projects are designed to take into account the need to protect our green spaces, both for our own wellbeing and the health of future generations to come.

We cannot undo what has already been done; however town and city planners would do well to recognise the benefits of working with their natural environment. The positive impact trees and plant life have on health and wellbeing should never be underestimated and as such, to design environmentally friendly developments that incorporate trees and green spaces is a must.
What are the benefits of trees in urban areas?

Simply put, trees provide the following benefits:
• Air purification
• Oxygenation
• CO2 absorbtion
• Reduced air temperatures
• Reduction in water usage and pollution
• Shelter from UV rays
• Positive impact on psychological wellbeing

Due to the immense number of houses, shops, roads and industry concentrated within a small area, inner city areas usually suffer from air pollution problems. Trees can help to purify this air, absorbing harmful gases such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and ammonia through the pores on their leaf surface. By filtering these gases, the air quality local to the tree improves, promoting better breathing.
It’s well known that trees convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen. Within just one year it is estimated that an acre of mature trees provides enough oxygen for eighteen people.

Trees help to combat climate change by lessening the damage CO2 causes to the ozone layer. In just one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same levels of carbon dioxide produced by a car that has driven 26,000 miles.

Urban areas often suffer from higher temperatures, particularly if these inner city areas have low amounts of tree coverage. Through shading and releasing cooling water vapour into the atmosphere, trees have the ability to naturally reduce air temperatures by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Research has shown that the shelter trees provide slows down water evaporation, resulting in reduced water usage and less artificial irrigation required. Trees also reduce water pollution as they act as sponges, naturally filtering water, rejuvenating groundwater supplies and reducing pollutants in stormwater runoff.

Trees protect people’s skin from harmful sun rays. Trees can reduce the exposure of UV rays by as much as 50%.

Trees also significantly contribute to people’s mood and emotions. The presence of trees within a domestic or hospital setting can greatly improve the psychological wellbeing of local residents. To many, they can provide a sense of relaxation and enable people to heal and de-stress. Trees improve a development’s aesthetics, masking unsightly buildings and urban views, again helping to improve people’s feelings of wellbeing. In fact, research has shown that areas with green landscaping and trees had reduced levels of crime and less reported instances of domestic abuse (Kuo and Sullivan; Hines).

Evidence shows that the physical and mental benefits of trees are significant. As more research is undertaken to measure the impact trees have on human health and wellbeing, we hope that local authorities and private developers use this knowledge to create a better balance between development and natural green space and habitats.

We hope you found our article on ‘The many health and wellbeing benefits of trees in urban areas’ helpful. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

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