Editor's note: The author is a member of the Bethlehem Garden Club.
Many of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen are trees. From graceful willows or stately oaks, to the vivid hues of a Sugar Maple in Fall, I love trees. The ugliest cities I’ve seen lacked trees. On the other hand, the prettiest towns and cities have had grand avenues of high canopied trees. I think of Washington, D.C., Savannah, Georgia, and Paris as examples.
Besides their beauty, trees add considerable value to our communities. Tree-lined commercial districts are known to increase frequency and length of shopping trips. Mature tree plantings can increase home values significantly.
There are important environmental reasons to value the trees in our community. Our tarmac and concrete cities absorb a great deal of solar heat. Many cities are 10 degrees warmer than their surrounding rural areas. The shade from trees can keep pavements, cars, and buildings cooler, saving energy use from air conditioning in warmer months. The net cooling effect of a young healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-sized air conditioners operating 20 hours/day (USDA). Trees also act as wind breaks and reduce noise pollution.
Trees in urban areas make it easier for people with asthma or lung disease to breath because trees consume tons of carbon dioxide from car emissions and replace it with the oxygen we need (through photosynthesis). Large healthy trees consume 60% more pollution than small trees because of their greater leaf and bark surface. They sequester 1000 times more carbon dioxide in their trunks and branches. Trees are one of our best defenses against climate change.
One of the major problems facing aging cities is that our storm sewer systems are no longer adequate to manage our storm run off (plus, our standards of what should run back into our rivers have become more stringent). Trees are an important part of managing storm run off. Trees catch rainfall, reducing storm water flow, decreasing the burden on our sewer systems, and decreasing risk of sewage getting dumped into our rivers.Trees absorb ground water and evaporate it into the air, another way they lower air temperatures. Trees reduce soil erosion.