How Urban Forests Add To Cities’ Health And Wealth

How Urban Forests Add To Cities’ Health And Wealth
Pet animal cemetery in a Russian urban forest. Image: By AVRS, via Wikimedia Commons

Planting more urban forests is a simple way not only to improve the health of a city’s people, but to make them wealthier too.

Climate scientists who calculated the value of urban forests to the world’s great cities have now worked out how town planners can almost double their money. Just plant 20% more trees.

More than half the world now lives in cities, and one person in 10 lives in a megacity: one that is home to at least 10 million people.

The trees that shade the parks and gardens and line the urban streets – London planes, limes, magnolias, pines and so on – are known to add to property values and to make living conditions better for millions who must endure the increasing heat extremes of the urban world.

Last year researchers put a value on the contributions of the urban forest: $500 million to the average megacity, they calculated, in pollution absorbed, temperatures lowered and moisture taken up.

More needed

Now Theodore Endreny, professor of environmental resources engineering at the State University of New York, and colleagues from Parthenope University in Naples, Italy, report in the journal Ecological Modelling that there is more to be done.

Tree canopies already cover 20% of the area of their 10 sample megacities in five continents. They looked at their models of tree cover, human population, air pollution, energy use, climate and spending power and found room for improvement: the same cities could find room for 20% more forest.

“By cultivating the trees within the city, residents and visitors get direct benefits,” Professor Endreny said. “They’re getting an immediate cleansing of the air that’s around them.

“They’re getting that direct cooling from the trees, and even food and other products. There’s potential to increase the coverage of urban forests in our megacities, and that would make them more sustainable, better places to live.”

“While nature provides a bounty of essential goods and services, such as food, flood protection and many more, it also has rich social, cultural, spiritual and religious significance”

Cities are afflicted by the notorious heat island effect, and climate scientists have repeatedly warned that extremes of heat and humidity could rise to potentially lethal levels in many of the world’s great cities.

The latest study is part of a wider shift in approach by urban planners and civic authorities to seek ways to mitigate the climate change driven by ever more profligate consumption of fossil fuels, without actually adding to this consumption by installing ever more air conditioning plant.

And on the same day, a second team of scientists emphasised the same conclusion: work with nature to confront climate change and improve the lives of people in the developing world, put at risk by climate change driven in part by the despoliation of the forests and the degradation of the land.

They argue in the journal Science that a better understanding of the way nature – in the form of forests, wetlands, savannahs and all the creatures that depend on the natural world – underwrites human wellbeing should inform political and economic decisions.

Local knowledge

In many cases, this would involve attending to the wisdom and experience of local communities and indigenous people who depend more directly on nature’s riches.

“Nature’s contributions to people are of critical importance to rich and poor in developed and developing countries alike. Nature underpins every person’s wellbeing and ambitions – from health and happiness to prosperity and security.

“People need to better understand the full value of nature to ensure its protection and sustainable use,” said Sir Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

“This new inclusive framework demonstrates that while nature provides a bounty of essential goods and services, such as food, flood protection and many more, it also has rich social, cultural, spiritual and religious significance – which needs to be valued in policymaking as well.”

Climate News Network

About the Author

Tim Radford, freelance journalistTim Radford is a freelance journalist. He worked for The Guardian for 32 years, becoming (among other things) letters editor, arts editor, literary editor and science editor. He won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times. He served on the UK committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. He has lectured about science and the media in dozens of British and foreign cities. 

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolutionBook by this Author:

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolution
by Tim Radford.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon. (Kindle book)

Related Books

Urban Forestry: Planning and Managing Urban Greenspaces, Third Edition
Author: Robert W. Miller
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Waveland Press, Inc.
List Price: $73.95
Offers - Buy New From: $73.95 Used From: $79.00
Buy Now

Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape
Author: Jill Jonnes
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
List Price: $18.00
Offers - Buy New From: $10.00 Used From: $3.00
Buy Now

Urban Tree Management: For the Sustainable Development of Green Cities
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
List Price: $90.00
Offers - Buy New From: $62.56 Used From: $65.11
Buy Now

enarfrhiitptrues

SOLUTIONS

Passive housing cuts costs – and global warming
by Alex Kirby
Buildings which heat and cool themselves – passive housing – save householders money and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar lamps light up more African nights
by Paul Brown
Solar lamps are shining more brightly in Africa, tackling poverty, ill-health and natural hazards, thanks to Chinese…
GMO crops could expect a brighter future
by Paul Brown
Genetically modified (GMO) crops remain controversial, but scientists still have faith that they will help both to…
Planting trees will not slow global warming
by Tim Radford
Nothing, not even the creation of huge plantations of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, is a viable alternative to…
Green energy tips good for business
by Paul Brown
Sharing energy-saving ideas such as using seawater pumps to heat buildings is helping big charities and businesses cut…
Bigger isn't better for energy savings
by Inga Vesper
The desire for more spacious cars and houses is cancelling out energy savings made by environmentally friendly…
Nuclear waste problems start gold rush
by Paul Brown
Staggering sums of money involved in the long-term challenge of solving the world’s nuclear waste problems make it a…

LATEST ARTICLES

How Geo-Engineered Crops May Help And Harm
by Tim Radford,Climate News Network
To cool the world and also boost plant growth, geo-engineered crops might do the trick. But if they work by dimming the…
Scientists Have Known Burning Coal Warms The Climate For A Long Time.
by Joe Romm, Think Progress
On August 14, 1912, a New Zealand newspaper’s “science notes and news” section ran a blurb headlined, “Coal consumption…
The Best Medicine for My Climate Grief
by Peter Kalmus
A climate scientist talks to a psychologist about coping with the crushing stress related to climate change. Here’s…
Climate Models Predict The World Will Be Anomalously Warm Until 2022
by Florian Sévellec
We developed a new prediction system we call PROCAST (PROabilistic foreCAST), and used it to predict the natural…
Holy Dog, It's "Hot As Spain!"
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
Now it's so hot in Europe that dogs are having to wear shoes. While a nice sunny day may seem like the perfect time for…
Why Forest Carbon Emissions Are Set To Grow
by Tim Radford, Climate News Network
The tropical forests could be at growing risk from climate change. And as they die, rising forest carbon emissions…
Is Climate Change Really To Blame For Slower Atlantic Circulation
by Hannah Hickey
Global warming isn’t the cause of slowdown in a huge circulation pattern in the Atlantic Ocean, which is, in fact, part…
Pantheism And How It Could Offer A New Approach To Preserving The Planet
by Tim Lomas
The scientists responsible for the “doomsday clock” moved it 30 seconds closer to midnight – the symbolic point of…