Urban Forests: Environmental Benefits

Environmental Benefits of Urban Trees
Shade is one of many environmental benefits trees provide.

Urban forests are made up of the trees that exist in urban or suburban landscapes. An urban forest is comprised of trees in many settings – in residential and commercial landscapes, along streets and other rights-of-way, and in parks, greenways and set-aside natural areas.  Urban forests have great environmental, economic and social value.

Urban forests can moderate the impacts of urban air pollutants.  Trees remove particulates, sulfur dioxide, ozone and other

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Trees provide more than just beauty or a source of wood products. Rather, trees provide an assortment of economic, environmental, psychological and social benefits to humans. Energy savings are one such highly valued benefit or service urban trees provide. Did you know that just 17% shade on a building from trees for example can reduce power bills by $10/ month or that urban trees can lower surrounding temperatures by as much as 20° F?  Alternatively, trees can reduce winter heating …

How do trees and other vegetation affect urban mesoclimates and microclimates?

Vegetation affects urban mesoclimate and microclimate by intercepting solar radiation, directing air movement, and affecting air temperature.  Microclimate, mesoclimate and macroclimate can be used to describe the climate of a given location. Macroclimate covers hundreds of square miles and parameters such as precipitation levels, temperatures and winds. Mesoclimate covers areas of tens of square miles and describes how conditions vary from the prevailing macroclimate due to the effects of water bodies, topographic features (terrain), and other landscape influences. A microclimate …

Time for Trees to Provide Energy Conservation Benefits?

It is possible to plant a tree that within a few years will provide energy conservation benefits. The length of time between planting and energy conservation savings is a function of the following factors:

  • Tree species (fast- or slow-growing)
  • Site (soil qualities such as fertility, moisture, compaction)
  • Desired energy conservation function (windbreak or shade)
  • Size and position of the structure for which energy conservation is desired

Some fast-growing tree species, under ideal growing conditions, may begin providing energy benefits …

Climate Mitigation by Urban Forests


Planting trees in urban areas can help mitigate carbon dioxide levels because trees can sequester carbon and offset some energy use for cooling, as some studies have illustrated in California.

urban trees The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32) requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This amounts to a reduction of 173 million metric tons from the level projected for 2020.

Aerial photography revealed 242 million potential sites for planting individual trees …