Diversity of trees crucial to urban forestry success

Whether for disaster recovery, beautification, or something else, as cities are planting trees, it behooves them to be aware of how each unique tree species varies in the benefits it can provide to the urban environment.

The updated release of the USDA plant hardiness zone map has indicated the potential affect changing climate conditions will have on the survival of certain plant species. In addition to the new map, a recent Science 2.0 article revealed the results of a collaborative study from the Sapienza University of Rome and Portland State University. This study determined that biodiversity in urban forests impacts the removal of ozone from a city’s atmosphere.

In other words, different groups of tree species perform different levels of ozone uptake activities at different times (and temperatures), ultimately complementing each other and working together synergistically.

The ozone is a necessary chemical that protects us against the sun’s rays, while exerting its own negative impact on the environment by damaging man-made materials and polluting crops. Understanding which tree species can survive in your city and which species are best for removing ozone can result in long-term benefits for you and your community.

In urban areas, ozone can be problematic and removal services costly. Learning how different tree species respond to environmental conditions would aid managers in developing systems for planting the right amount of trees in the right places. According to Science 2.0:

Managers in several U.S. cities–including D.C., New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago–already tout urban forests as a cost-effective method of reducing air pollution, and these results suggest that other cities would experience similar benefits. Given that over half the world’s population currently lives in ever-expanding urban areas, this management practice could improve air quality for a significant number of people.

The Arbor Day Foundation has been extolling the dynamic benefits of urban forests for decades. Urban forests raise property value, add aesthetic appeal, lower temperatures, change wind patterns, reduce energy use (and costs) and improve air quality. Through its Tree City USA program, the Arbor Day Foundation has awarded national recognition to over 3,400 communities (where over 135 million people live) for implementing their own urban and community forest sustainability programs.

Planting trees in your city provide many benefits. So plant trees…and plant a variety of trees, in the right places to make those benefits count.