Trees are More Important Than You Realise...

As you may know, there are numerous benefits to having trees on your area of land. Whilst most are planted to provide beauty or shade, other factors are often overlooked. Tree benefits can be broken down into four main categories: social, communal, environmental and economic.

Social Benefits

Trees are beautiful specimens; however, the human response to them is actually much deeper than this. We feel a sense of peace, tranquility and calmness when in the company of trees. Trees make us feel at home, a park in the center of a city can often feel very rural even if only a handful of trees are growing there.
Most cities adopt a strategy to provide little pockets of greenery where workers can go to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life. Apartments with high levels of green space have lower crime rates than their more urban counterparts. If you have read my Amazing Tree Facts article you will know that trees can also decrease the time a patient needs to spend in hospital after surgery.
We often hear of trees planted as a memory to somebody who has passed away. We can become attached to a tree because of it's gentle qualities, potential for long life and sense of meaning. Many times have we heard of communities grouping together to rally against the removal of a significant or meaningful tree.

Communal Benefits

No matter where a tree is located, it usually has somebody who has strong feelings for it. Historic trees on private land can still create strong feelings within a community. Large growing trees often come into conflict with utilities, views and other structures, unfortunately this is becoming more common with urban sprawl and an ever rising population, with proper selection and maintenance these conflicts can be kept to a minimum.
Using Hyde Park in London as an example, trees are extremely good for removing and reducing unwanted views or for screening purposes. Runners often use green space like this to take themselves away from their hectic city lives. Trees can be implemented in the architectural aspect of planning and it's important the planners know how a certain species of tree will grow and develop over time. There is nothing more pleasant than seeing wildlife thrive in an urban environment. Bats, squirrels, birds and even deer all benefit from thriving natural elements within a community.

Environmental Benefits

The most overlooked benefits are those of the environment around us. This is possibly because we struggle to connect the dots and see how trees really do affect our everyday lives. Trees absorb sunlight from above our heads, deciduous trees have a benefit of creating cooling shade in the summer when they have leaves. However, upon leaf-fall they allow the sun to shine through but help to shelter from bad wind and rain.
Larger trees generally have a greater cooling effect, by planting trees in cities, it enables us to lower the heat-island effect caused by concrete and buildings.
The greater the foliage on a tree, the more effective it becomes at being a windbreak, especially when grouped together. Woodland areas often create an illusion of a calm day until stepped outside of, when the full effect of wind is then felt. They have the same impact with rain, sleet and hail, not only do trees provide protection from it, they will intercept water and absorb it.
As we know, one of the main environmental benefits of trees is improved air quality. Tree leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particles. Leaves will absorb greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Other gases such as ozone, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide are also absorbed; the bi-product of this reaction is oxygen.
As mentioned earlier, natural environment and tree planting go side by side with birds and wildlife. Ecosystems can begin to develop and animals can live surprisingly close to urban communities.

Economic Benefits

In the UK weíre obsessed with the property market, however, many do not realize that a landscaped garden can increase property value anywhere between 5-20 percent. Trees and shrubs have value depending on their size, species, condition and function.
Energy costs can be greatly reduced by planting trees in smart places. A shaded home will be cooler in the summer lowering the need for air conditioning. On the flipside, having trees as windbreaks in the winter can significantly lower heating costs.
You may not have considered the wider impact of trees to the economy. More trees help to filter storm water, saving local councils large expenses when homes and communities get flooded. Trees in a local area can stop landslides and help to keep the integrity of riverbanks intact.

The Cost of Trees to You

Overall, the number of benefits from trees is quite astonishing. Itís also worth noting that itís not all one way traffic and you will incur some costs from planting or maintenance. Investing in tree maintenance will help you to return the above benefits. Costs of getting it wrong can be hefty, especially when personal property is affected. There is usually only one winner when a tree and a house come into conflict with one another.
If starting out, avoid an impulse buy or the neighbours advice on which tree to plant. That little Ash tree you bought from the local garden centre will soon become large and mighty, donít get caught out. Read my Tree Selection and Placement article to assess exactly what outcome you are looking for from a tree.
Correct pruning and mulching techniques give your tree a good start; they are also an ongoing process. One hard prune every few years is not the best way to look after your tree, little and often is a more efficient approach to nurture your outside space to how you desire.
There is a huge array of information in books and on the internet. Garden centres, tree officers and tree surgeons can provide further clarification or help should you need it. The Royal Horticulture Society website is very useful for hints and tips about gardening and trees. I have given you further places for information on my Useful Links page.
Thanks for reading.
Sam Clark
Tree Surgeon
 SPC Tree Services

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