Urban parks and forests may well be the only “nature” that many Americans experience, and the first contact that many children have with the great outdoors. Forming that connection in the urban forest may be a first step towards a hike in a national forest. And there many more benefits from urban trees than first meet the eye:
1) Trees improve air quality by trapping dust, ash, and pollen as well as producing cooling shade. One acre of trees produces enough oxygen in a day to support 18 people. It’s been estimated that the trees in Atlanta, Georgia, remove almost 10,000 tons of air pollutants every year.
2) Trees clean water by slowing the flow of stormwater that frequently includes sediment and pollutants washed from impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots. During a heavy rain, a healthy forest can absorb thousands of gallons of water an hour.
3) Trees reduce city noise by absorbing sound.
4) Urban forests provide habitat for wildlife species that range from insects, to bats and birds, to reptiles and amphibians, to rabbits, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and deer.
5) Wooded areas near work and retail areas encourage people to get out and take walks. Studies continue to show that walking outside in the woods relieves stress and increases feelings of well-being. Urban forests and parks are also popular as places to run, bike, rollerblade, watch birds, and relax.
6) Studies have also shown that people who live near common green spaces are more likelhy to interact with their neighbors, increasing community vitality.