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Summer Shade: Plant a Tree and Enhance Your Yard

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Blog by Mary Roy | May 30th, 2013

Trees shade our homes, add beauty to our communities and countryside, and protect biodiversity by providing food and habitat for birds and animals. Trees are natural air filters - taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Trees protect sources of drinking water by preventing soil erosion.

Tree Lined Road 


Trees absorb and store greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as they grow, making them an essential tool in Ontario's fight against climate change.

It’s no coincidence then that neighbourhoods with the most trees are those with the highest property values. Keeping in mind that half the urban area in cities is either paved over or covered with buildings, it’s no surprise trees make a street, district, or indeed, an entire city, highly desirable.

And nowhere are we talking about the sort of architectural use of trees that enlivens so many European cities. That costs money and requires a commitment of decades, even centuries. But to wander the streets of, say, Paris is to be reminded of the huge role trees can play on the urban landscape.

Urban Trees And Their Benefits

Trees are considered a form of “green infrastructure” providing many benefits to urban dwellers:

    Social and community benefits:

    • Urban forests improve our quality of life and help to beautify communities.
    • Trees and well- landscaped grounds are among the most important factors considered when individuals choose a place to live 
    • Green spaces entice neighbours outdoors on a regular basis, where they build friendships and community ties 
    • Workers with a view of nature from their desk were found to have better overall health, increased job satisfaction, less frustration with tasks and overall higher feelings of life satisfaction


  • Health Benefits

    • Trees and green spaces can help ease the everyday pressures of life 
    • Even brief encounters with nature can improve one’s ability to concentrate 
    • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms in children are relieved after spending time in nature 
    • Roadside plantings and landscaping can reduce driver stress 
    • Patients with views of trees from their hospital bed spend less time in the hospital than those with no view


  • Crime and Safety

    • In a study of inner city neighbourhoods in the U.S., greener residences had lower crime rates 
    • Inner city families with trees and greenery in their immediate outdoor surroundings have safer domestic environments 
    • Neighbourhoods with well cared for landscapes contribute to reduced feelings of fear and violence


  • Air quality:

    • Trees improve air quality by removing atmospheric carbon dioxide, absorbing air pollutants and producing oxygen. The average Canadian urban tree is estimated to remove about 200 kg of carbon over an 80 year period 
    • An analysis of the Washington D.C. metro area concluded that tree cover generated annual air quality savings of $49.8 million


  • Reduced energy costs:

    • Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 - 50 percent in energy used for heating


  • Environmental Benefits:

    • Trees prevent runoff and erosion, resulting in improved water quality and reduced stormwater runoff or flooding 
    • For every 1000 trees, nearly 1 million gallons of stormwater runoff is prevented 
    • Trees are a critical source of habitat for many wildlife


  • Economic benefits:

    • Property values of well-landscaped homes can be increased by 5-20% 
    • A study of urban forests in Modesto, CA shows that for each $1 invested in urban forest management, $1.89 in benefits is returned to residents through increased property values, removal of air pollutants, and energy savings through shade 
    • Shoppers have indicated that they would be willing to spend up to 12% more for products in business districts with attractive urban forests

Facts about Trees
   • Two thirds of Ontario, an area totaling 71.1 million hectares, is covered by forests - a land
      area equivalent in size to Germany, Italy and the Netherlands combined.
      Our forests can absorb a staggering 425 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
      And since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, that's good for our climate.
   • Trees reduce air conditioning needs by up to 30 per cent by providing shade for homes
      and businesses.
   • Ancient cedars over 1,500 years old can be found growing on the Niagara Escarpment.
   • Ontario's official tree, the eastern white pine, is the tallest tree species in eastern
      North America, reaching heights greater than 30 metres.
   • Black spruce is the most common tree in Ontario, making up more than 37 per cent
      of the province's growing stock. 

We can all contribute to a healthy natural environment by planting trees. Before planting, it's important to research a variety of tree species, or talk to an expert, to find out which trees grow best in your part of the province.

Ontario Tree Guide: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/groups/lr/@mnr/@climatechange/documents/document/276611.pdf

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/ClimateChange/2ColumnSubPage/STDPROD_086474.html , http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/05/17/urban_tree_canopy_makes_toronto_livable_hume.html. http://www.kelowna.ca/CM/page940.aspx

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