Social (health & community)
Our health and well-being are intricately interconnected with the health of our natural environment. Trees and forests are integral components of healthy ecosystems that support healthy human populations. Trees help to reduce smog and pollution in our cities by filtering out many airborne pollutants that have negative impacts on our health, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide and particulates. These pollutants have been linked to heart disease, respiratory illnesses, diabetes and cancer.
A growing body of evidence suggests that human mental and physical health is closely associated with the health of our forest ecosystems. Consequently, poor environmental conditions may lead to an increase in the incidence of a wide array of illnesses. Forests and green spaces have conclusively been linked to a significant decline in stress, improved rehabilitation, faster hospital recovery rates, and a decrease in the severity of symptoms in attention deficit disorders.
Experts have determined that a minimum 30 per cent forest cover is required to maintain a healthy, sustainable ecosystem. Currently, forest cover is as low as five per cent in some regions of Ontario’s settled landscape, compromising the health of our ecosystems and their inhabitants. Efforts to enrich our forest ecosystems will contribute to the stability and resiliency of the ecosystems we inhabit. To enhance the health of our ecosystems and to better prepare Ontario to adapt to climate change, tree planting efforts must involve both rural and urban initiatives.
Billions of dollars are spent annually on health care services to treat symptoms; however, comparatively little is invested in addressing the root causes of many commonly occurring diseases. Restoring the health and integrity of our forests, can be viewed as a preventative health measure and will contribute to our collective health and well-being.
To read more about the impact of trees on individual and community health, click here.
The following are only a sample of statistics that illustrate how important trees are from an economic standpoint.
“The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten 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 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.” —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% of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%.”—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 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.” —USDA Forest Service
Trees are one of nature’s most powerful energy savers and water purifiers! The ways that trees can help to clean the air should not be overlooked and they are a cost-effective solution to reducing pollution and improving air quality. Vehicle & industrial emissions, gasoline vapors and chemical solvants are serious polluters that have been linked to various human disease (as well as environmental degredation if concentrated). Air quality can be significant improved if a healthy urban forest is maintained. As the temperatures climb in the summer and in our “concrete jungles”, the formation of ozone increases. Large shade trees, for example, can reduce ambient temperatures by 3 to 5 °C! And did you know large evergreen trees with dense foliage collect the most particulate pollution?