Novato, CA (July 1, 2009)- In addition to abundant environmental benefits, new research suggests trees also provide social and economic advantages. Frances Kuo, assistant professor and co-director of the Human-Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois, reports that trees can reduce crime. The relationship, according to a study she conducted, between crime and vegetation is clear: the more trees, the fewer the crimes. Apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52 percent fewer crimes than those without any trees. Buildings with medium amounts of greenery had 42 percent fewer crimes.
In her research on the benefits of green spaces, Professor Kuo also revealed that students perform better in tests and neighbors enjoy more harmonious personal relationships when surrounded by trees and grass. Children with attention disorders, the professor has reported, can support their attentional functioning and minimize their symptoms simply by spending more time in green settings.
We need urban forests. Because of carbon sequestration, water and air pollution mitigation, energy use reduction and avoidance, aesthetics (property values hence tax base), public health benefits and services, and the creation of green jobs, trees are an important part of any urban greening solution. Urban forests, as defined by the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition, are “the aggregate of all vegetation and green spaces that provide a myriad of environmental, health and economic benefits for a community.”
There are nonprofit organizations all over the country, such as The Alliance for Community Trees, that address these needs through urban greening. Another one, The California Urban Forests Council, is dedicated to the expansion and perpetuation of sustainable urban and community forests to enhance the quality of life for all who live or work in, or visit California.
CUFC maintains a full spectrum of programs and initiatives designed to constantly improve air quality, conserve and protect precious water, improve the quality of life and add beauty in California. These initiatives include: active participation in planning, planting, managing and caring for urban forests; advocacy and support for public policy and government action which supports holistic ecosystems and encourages the development of policies and practices to sustain such systems; the creation of educational materials which offer research, professional expertise and contemporary knowledge to empower California residents to actively participate in urban forestation; development and support for successful local, regional and state-wide forestry organizations.
What is an urban forester? Some might say, as the CUFC site explains, “that the term is an oxymoron. Foresters don’t belong in the city. Others would say that the urban forest is the most important aspect of a city. Urban foresters are acutely aware of the importance of the trees and other plants in populated areas. Trees bring a multitude of benefits to the population. That may seem obvious on a hot day, but benefits are many and expand each year as plants grow larger. Tree benefits include air purification, water retention, carbon sequestering and of course that life supporting gas we call oxygen. More intangible benefits are also evident, the sense of well being, improved business areas, less crime, greater property values. We tend to forget that plants feed us and clothe us as well as provide cures for health problems.”
Interested in becoming an urban forester? For more information, see The USDA Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research.
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More Trees = Less Crime
California Urban Forests Council