Tips From The Top
by Daniel van Starrenburg, President
The Growing Importance of Healthy Trees
Our nation’s 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had a great affinity for trees and their significance in society.
He once said, “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
From forests, to community open spaces; from Main Street, to our very own backyards, the significance of trees has never been more relevant.
As environmental challenges continue to permeate the country and the world, trees have remained some of Mother Nature’s best medicine – providing a range of benefits many fail to realize as we go about our day.
The United States Forest Service’s Northern Research Station (NRS) has a team of dedicated scientists throughout a 20 state region studying how trees in urban and suburban areas impact quality of life. Benefits that fall under the category of “ecosystem services,” include cooling the air temperature, providing oxygen, intercepting ultraviolet (UV) light, absorbing rainfall, storing carbon and reducing air pollution.
Fortunately, many of these ecosystem services are correlated with positive impacts on human health.1 For example, less exposure to UV rays results in reduced rates of skin cancers and cataracts. Less small particle pollution helps reduce the severity of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, among others. Just a few degrees of lower temperature in the summer can make a critical difference, particularly with the elderly, in avoiding heat stroke.
Recent studies also suggest a host of psychological benefits including:
- Easing depression and stress. In a Harvard study, it was discovered that greener environments tend to boost physical activity and social connection – diminishing some forms of depression.
- Sleep support. Published in Preventative Medicine, sleeping near green spaces helped people attain better uninterrupted sleep.
Even students and hospital patients displayed improved learning and healing when their rooms offered a view of nature.
Beyond environmental and health benefits, there is evidence that trees and green areas provide sociological benefits as well by increasing neighborhood cohesion and reducing crime.
Understanding the many benefits trees offer to society will further encourage us all to help conserve them.
This spring, plant a new tree or properly nurture an existing one. Help make our world a cleaner, greener place for everyone to enjoy.