As we prepare for this upcoming Saturday’s Tour de Trees community event, it’s fitting that we end our Why Tree Matter series with a discussion of how trees help develop community.
As more people worldwide live in cities, trees improve the quality of life within a community by reducing the chronic stress linked to urban living by providing access to nature and green spaces. Green spaces are areas with trees, plants, and other vegetation. One UK study showed that areas with higher tree density had lower levels of antidepressant prescriptions. Research also shows that the more green space an urban area has, the more healthy social interactions between adults and children and the lowering of graffiti, property crime, and violent crime. Programs like Trees for Integration help reintegrate street children with their local community and encourage them to play alongside other local school children. Studies show that children learn faster and ADHD symptoms appear less when children have access to nature.
Increasing the number of trees in a neighborhood helps develop a community’s economy by attracting more business and tourism and by improving the productivity of workers through better concentration and less mental fatigue. Trees also develop a sense of communal ownership (and appreciation) of common spaces. One study conducted by Furman University revealed that neighborhoods which didn’t regularly interact through block parties or crime watches did, however, start organizing other community events together once they started caring for their local communal trees.
Through the VPA’s Shade Tree Program we’ve been able to meet people from across Maricopa country and participate in community programs like tree planting with local schools and the 10th anniversary of urban forestry at Super Bowl where members of the community rallied around the simple act of planting a tree. Trees can serve as landmarks in communities, such as the 2014 Magnificent 7 Trees that were recognized this past week at the Arizona’s Capitol Arbor Day celebration.
Over the past several months we have looked at the many benefits trees provide--from energy savings to air pollution reduction to water conservation. Tools like i-tree help us estimate in economic terms the benefits that trees bring to a community, such as the estimate below performed by a Wisconsin community.
Perhaps, though, the one benefit that can’t be simply measured in monetary terms is the way trees tie us to our backyards, our neighborhood, and our overall community. As we near 100 degrees this week and park our car or wait for the bus or meet a friend under the shade of a tree, we can reflect on why trees matter.
https://www.itreetools.org/ (i-tree tools)
http://blogs.centre.edu/environment/quantifying-urban-forest-ecosystems-services-theres-an-app-for-that-welcome-to-i-tree/ (Fox Valley Metro Area tree benefit estimate)
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