Study Shows Planting More Street Trees Can Make Residents Feel Up To 7 Years Younger

Why planting trees is of utmost importance today?

A study in Toronto, Canada sought to find a correlation between trees lining the city streets and improved health and wellbeing that comes along with it.  It has long been known that a general sense of wellbeing can accompany greenery, people love trees, but this study is the first to look at it so extensively.

This study involved examining the self-reported health perceptions of 31,000 people throughout the city.  A Canadian city was chosen because of the universal access to health-care, providing a more even base and medical environment for the people involved in the study.

The study carefully controlled variables like age, diet and income, factors that could impact perceptions of health, and the results were quite intriguing.  The study found that planting 10 more trees per city block ” “on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger.”  Additionally, they found that “having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardio-metabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.” 

They noted that the findings really only applied to trees along the street and not the trees in parks.  “It seems that trees that affect people most generally are those that they may have the most contact (visual or presence) with, which we are hypothesizing to be those planted along the streets. Another possible explanation could be that trees on the street may be more important to reductions in air pollution generated by traffic.” 

Trees are important not just for the health of the environment, but for human health too. Their place in our ecological cycle is of the utmost importance, which is why it’s important to sustain the life of trees and plant new ones as much as we can.

Trees provide us with one of the core components of life -oxygen, and filter carbon dioxide, so they are vital to creating the atmosphere we live in. In fact, the average tree provides enough oxygen in 1 year for a family of 4. They also provide shade, giving us shelter from the sun. Planted in the right place, a tree can even help to significantly reduce energy bills, particularly from using air conditioning.

Ecologically, trees are vital in promoting a healthy atmosphere as they absorb pollutants in the atmosphere. They provide homes for a variety of animals such as birds and insects, and they provide fruit which can be eaten. Trees also modify the nitrates in the surrounding soil, making the ground that much more fertile for planting. They can even help to provide a significant boost in the water quality of the surrounding area by reducing runoff from rainwater, thus reducing the amount of pollutants that enter a water source whilst also helping groundwater supplies to recharge. As you can see, there are so many advantages and benefits which trees bring to us, which is why we are always working hard to preserve them and plant new ones so they can thrive, grow, and carry on creating oxygen for us.

The researchers have acknowledged that there are limitations to their research and are seeking more research to overcome them.  However, they were able to conclude that “street trees are associated with a significant, independent and reliable increase in health benefits in urban populations, and that small increase in the number of trees along the street could improve health markedly and in cost-effective ways.”

Tree planting program

Trees are the largest living organisms on Earth. Their magnificent appearance sustains life on Earth by producing oxygen, which is essential for all living beings. Trees have a great range of effects on the natural cycles. They keep the soil from eroding, prevent flooding, make the soil fertile, retain moisture in the soil, affect ground waters, collect dust in the air, have an impact on precipitation and much more. Forests once covered almost two thirds of the land, and now, this figure is reduced to half.

Forests are crucial for the nature and its cycles. Global warming, caused by pollution of the environment and fossil fuels combustion, has become a serious problem on our planet Earth. Trees are the only organisms today that can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increase the level of oxygen, vital for our survival and the survival of all living organisms, including us humans. Therefore, it is very important to preserve our existing forests and plant new ones whenever and wherever we can. Through this program, we teach people the importance of preserving forests, and encourage them to plant trees. Each of us should plant trees and in this way contribute to the salvation of our planet mother Earth.
This program has been implemented in: Croatia (Petrinja, Samobor), India (Bangalore, Bidar).

Summary of the benefits of forests and trees:

  • they produce oxygen that is essential to life
  • they collect dust and absorb carbon dioxide that is harmful for the environment
  • they make water drinkable and beneficial for human health 
  • they nurture and enrich soil, protect land from becoming deserts
  • they protect from floods
  • they diminish the harmful effects of global warming

How to contribute to the program of environmental protection:

Whether planted in a small backyard, or a larger farm or forest, trees are vital to the web of life. Protecting and planting trees can restore wildlife habitat, heal degraded land, conserve soil, protect watersheds, diversify farm or garden products, beautify landscapes and enhance the economic and ecological viability of land use systems. Careful planning and sound information is needed to reach these goals. Indigenous knowledge systems are now being regarded as an invaluable resource for cultivating connections with trees. For instance, Pacific Island peoples planted and protected trees as a part of their ancient culture.

Planting trees on residential properties is far more successful, though planted trees still seldom reach the ages they would in natural environments. Since 1996, LEAF has planted over 16,000 trees with a survival rate of over 95% five years after planting. Michael Alkema, LEAF Field Operations Supervisor, states: “Planting, stock and maintenance all play a vital role in transplanting a tree. Each criterion is vital in the success of a tree as any one factor can have detrimental effect. Minimizing stress on the tree will allow it to establish quicker and more efficiently in the new habitat. One way to do this is to follow proper planting procedures such as correct height or minimizing girdling roots.”

Cut a tree, plant a tree

When a tree is removed, it is often replaced with a small potted or balled and burlapped (b&b) tree. A new tree that has only a couple of hundred leaves cannot replace all the benefits lost with the removal of a mature specimen. Trees provide not only visual appeal, but also ecological functions such as cooling, air polishing, and habitat and oxygen production. 

Older trees provide both a greater surface area and more microhabitats. Many of the reasons used to justify removal of old trees – dead limbs, hollows and fungi – are extremely important for biological diversity and cannot be replicated with the same surface area on hundreds of smaller trees. 

Urban trees play a role in carbon dioxide sequestering and aid in the shading of structures, something not seen in most rural and forest trees. James Urban has stated that a transplanted tree will not begin to make a net contribution to carbon sequestering for 20 years due to high energy input into growing and moving the tree.

Clearly, one-for-one tree removal and replacement reduces the functioning of the urban forest over time. Multiple replacement trees are needed to help counteract the loss, and survival to a mature age is vital.

Potted is better

Traditionally, b&b trees have been considered stressed because approximately 90-95% of their roots are severed when dug. Trees grown in pots have been viewed as a superior option as no roots are severed and the reduced weight allows for a broader range of people to plant trees. Unfortunately, potted trees exhibit their own evils. Girdling and contorted roots, desiccation-prone potting material, and root-bound plants can all result in poor survival (see Up by Roots for extensive discussion). The increasing prominence of potted material in the marketplace indicates that we should all be vigilant about inspecting roots.

Once a root is formed, it does not straighten itself. The Canadian Standards for Nursery Stock, 8th ed. (available through the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association) says: “All normal quality nursery stock must have an adequate fibrous root system that has been developed by proper cultivating practices, particularly transplanting or root pruning.” Florida’s Grades and Standards for Nursery Stock are stricter: they require that many circling roots be removed or the plant be culled.

It is of utmost importance to remove or straighten girdling and contorted roots at the time of planting. The root-crown and trunk-flair intersection must be exposed and planted at or above the soil level. The tree may be planted two to three inches high as addition of soil and excessive mulch by homeowners and property maintenance companies can effectively raise the soil level.

Remember: Plant it high and it will thrive; plant it low and it won’t grow.

With b&b trees, it has been commonplace to prune the crown to “balance” with the severed root system. This appears to be a myth but a more immediate need may be to begin formative pruning while the arborist is on site and to reduce the size of the sail. Trees are often topped in the nursery to form a dense head. This clump of sprouts needs to be thinned and a dominant leader formed from day one.

As an eco-aware individual or group we ask you to do this:

  • plant 5 trees
  • educate people about the importance of trees and the dangers of deforestation
  • recycle waste and use recycled products
  • do not throw away plastic and other wastes in natural environment
  • avoid the use of plastic bags
  • avoid the use of substances that harm nature or cannot be recycled

To sum up: Do all that you can to preserve the environment and ensure that there are plenty of trees for future generations to enjoy!