Why Plant Trees?

By Nancy Buley
Kansas City, MO (August 11, 2009)- A tree planted today will grow in value and pay you back year after year. Planting trees makes sense for all sorts of economic and aesthetic reasons. It’s widely recognized that the planting of one or more trees in your home landscape adds to your property value, and of course, to its curb appeal.

Less well known are the environmental, social and health benefits of trees. USDA Forest Service scientists have been working for more than two decades to measure and document the environmental and economic value of a healthy urban forest. Their conclusions for Kansas City and other communities of the Heartland are available in the Midwest Community Tree Guide, published by the Center for Urban Forest Research. The report reveals that the average annual net benefit (calculated over an estimated 40-year average lifespan) for a large tree was $58-$76. Annual net benefit for a medium tree was $34, while benefits of a small tree totaled as much as $15 per year.
“Environmental benefits alone, such as energy savings, stormwater-runoff reduction, and reduced air-pollutant uptake, were three to five times the tree care costs for small, medium, and large trees,” according to the report. Net benefits for a residential yard tree, when planted strategically to shade a home during the hottest hours of Midwest summer days, are substantial. When summed over the estimated average 40-year lifespan of the tree, the savings were $1,360 for a medium tree (red oak) and a whopping $3,040 for a large tree (hackberry). The estimated $600 in net benefits of a small tree (ornamental crabapple) was much less, but still averaged out to $15 per year. And the value of spring blooms, bright summer foliage and sparkling fruit that attracts wildlife to your yard? Priceless!
Trees improve real estate values on a neighborhood-wide basis as well as the values of individual homes. A recent study revealed that each large tree growing in a front yard increased the value of the residential property by about one percent. Other studies show that buyers are typically willing to pay 3 to 7 percent more for a home with trees. Trees planted today will provide a handsome return on your investment when your home is sold in the future, while providing you and your neighbors with shade, beauty and valuable ecosystem services on a daily basis.
Trees planted in your front yard and elsewhere produce oxygen for your family and neighbors. Their leaves remove atmospheric carbon dioxide and harmful particulates from the air and reduce stormwater runoff. In the Midwest, a typical 20-year-old tree such as a hackberry intercepts 1,394 gallons of rainfall per year, reducing runoff and returning much of the moisture to the aquifer beneath your home and to the air via evaporative cooling.
Trees provide food and shelter for beneficial insects and wildlife. They shade pavement and reduce overall urban temperatures. Trees planted along streets serve to slow and calm traffic and contribute to safer streets and pedestrian routes. Trees have positive health benefits including faster healing for hospital patients who have a view of trees out their window. Schoolchildren with an outdoor view of trees and greenspace concentrate better and learn more.
Trees have been proven to reduce neighborhood crime. Trees reduce emotional stress, and there is even scientific evidence that trees can improve the dispositions of cranky neighbors!
Energy savings
In the Midwest, trees can lower annual heating and cooling costs for a typical home by as much as 20 to 25 percent, thanks to summer shading and winter windbreak protection from frigid arctic winds. Shady neighborhoods reduce the community-wide demand for electricity for air conditioning, thereby reducing emissions from power not generated. For individual homeowners, strategically located trees reduce air conditioning costs in summer and serve as windbreaks to reduce winter heating costs.
Produce oxygen
Trees are nature’s oxygen factories. They remove carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into oxygen and carbon, which is stored in leaves, stems and roots. A typical medium size tree will reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by about 200 pounds per year over a 40-year period.
In this recessionary economy in which responsible citizens are making earnest efforts to live more sustainably, growing oxygen should rank with fruit and vegetable growing as an important and rewarding gardening activity. Producing your own oxygen is as easy as planting a couple of trees!
A healthy, 30-ft. tree, such as an ash, linden or red maple, produces about 260 pounds of net oxygen annually. A typical person consumes 386 pounds of oxygen per year. Therefore, two medium-sized, healthy trees can supply the oxygen you require over the course of a year.
In addition to producing life-giving oxygen, those two trees will filter dust, heavy metals and other harmful particulates from the air. They will work hard to give you, your family and your neighbors cleaner, fresher air to breathe. Studies show that children who live in shady neighborhoods have lower rates of asthma than children in heavily urbanized areas.
The right tree, planted in the right place, will grow in value and pay you back year after year. There are many more reasons to plant trees. These were gleaned primarily from the Midwest Community Tree Guide, Benefits, Costs, and Strategic Planting (E. Gregory McPherson, et al.; Center for Urban Forest Research, Report PSW-GTR-199, November 2006). It is available from the Center for Urban Forest Research (www.fs.fed.us/psw/programs/cufr/) in printed form or downloadable from www.fs.fed.us/psw/programs/cufr/tree_guides.php
Related Resources:
Kansas City Gardener- Why Plant Trees?