How do trees and green spaces enhance our health?


There are several ways in which trees improve life. By lowering the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they fight climate change. By taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, they absorb sound pollution and lessen air pollution. Trees reduce stormwater flow during heavy rainstorms, averting flooding and soil erosion. Additionally, they offer important habitats for the biodiversity of bacteria, birds, and other creatures in addition to insects. The list is endless.

A growing body of research shows that even just being in close proximity to trees and other green areas improves our emotional and physical well-being. Some of the main advantages we experience are listed below.

Keeping it cool: Trees help prevent heat-related illness

In the US, heat waves are becoming more frequent due to climate change. Living in areas referred to as “urban heat islands,” where concrete and asphalt retain heat during the day and radiate it at night, makes these effects harsher for residents. It can get up to 7°F hotter than in rural or suburban areas, or just in nicer, greener neighborhoods.

Urban heat islands are lessened by the shade that trees and their leafy canopy give. What does that signify to each person? This results in a decrease in heat-related illnesses, which are more common among older, sicker, and outside workers. According to a research in The Lancet, four out of ten adult premature heat-related fatalities in 93 European cities may be avoided if tree canopy coverage was increased to thirty percent.

How trees help children: Better mood, behavior, attention, and more

More time spent in nature has been associated with improved health outcomes, including lowered blood pressure, improved sleep, and improvements in a variety of chronic adult illnesses. The results of this study are stimulating increased interest in forest therapy, an outdoor therapeutic approach that is guided and promotes general well-being. The numerous advantages that trees and the natural world offer kids are equally astounding, though.

youngsters aged 4 to 6 who lived near green space showed less hyperactive behavior and performed better on attention and visual memory tests than youngsters who did not live near green space.

Even the mere sight of trees can be therapeutic for the mind. A research conducted in Michigan on children aged 7 to 9 revealed that students with limited views of trees from their school windows had more behavioral issues than those with unrestricted views.

Researchers in Finland changed the outdoor playscapes of childcare centers to resemble the understory of forests. These daycares were contrasted with nature-focused daycares, where kids went on daily field trips to neighboring forests, and control traditional daycares. After 28 days, the kids in the daycares with the altered playscapes of forest undergrowth had better indicators of their immune systems and a healthier microbiota than the kids in the other daycares.

How green space helps communities

Additionally, the presence of green space in neighborhoods greatly enhances the quality of life in those areas. In a US city, a randomized study created and maintained trees and grass on previously undeveloped land. Then, the researchers contrasted these green areas with lots that remained unaltered.

Compared to unspoiled vacant lots, there was less crime in neighborhoods below the poverty line where there were greened-over lots. In the meantime, people who lived next to greened lots said they felt safer and used the outdoor area more frequently for socializing and resting.

How can you help?

Regrettably, the amount of urban tree canopy cover has decreased over time. Numerous cities and nonprofits have initiatives that offer trees for planting in an effort to halt this trend.

Canopy Crew in Cambridge and Speak for the Trees in Boston are two instances in Massachusetts. (Speak for the Trees also provides useful guidance on choosing and maintaining trees). In the US, Neighborhood Forest supplies trees to schools and other youth organizations. Find a program in your area!

Planting trees that are indigenous to your area will benefit the ecosystem, animals, and local circumstances. For further details and advice, get in touch with your local Native Plant Society. Numerous tree associations and qualified arborists can advise you on the finest native tree choices if you are concerned about seasonal allergies caused by tree pollen.

If you would want to support the effort but are not interested in planting trees, you might consider making a donation to forestry organizations such as The Canopy Project and the Arbor Day Foundation.

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