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Urban Trees and How to Help Them Thrive

Trees improve the livability of our cities for countless reasons. Close to 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas and depends on the essential ecological, economic, and social benefits provided by urban trees and forests. As urban areas expand across the country, the importance of the benefits that urban forests provide, as well as the challenges to their conservation and maintenance, will increase.

Did you know that:

  • Properly placed trees can reduce heating and cooling costs by 10-20% on average within 10-15 years after planting (Heat Island Group 1996).
  • Sales prices of homes with trees increased by 3.5% to 4.5% over similar properties without trees.
  • Consumer ratings of retail establishments were up to 80% higher for business districts with street trees and other landscaping (University of Washington 1998).
  • Recuperation rates were faster for patients whose windows offered views of a wooded landscape (Ulrich, 1984).
  • Less violence occurred in public housing where there were trees (Sullivan and Kuo 1996).
  • Trees reduce surface asphalt temperatures by up to 36° F and vehicle cabin temperatures by 47° F (CUFR 2001).

Research over the years has confirmed the immense value and benefits that mature urban trees offer our cities. Organizations such as American Forests and Trees Forever actively campaign in support of trees in urban areas. And the more mature the tree, the greater the benefits – so it’s critical that trees are planted with mature establishment in mind.

But planting in urban areas comes. With its own set of challenges. One problem with sustaining healthy trees in our cities is that the urban landscape can be a very harsh environment and often does not reflect a tree’s natural growing conditions. In fact, American Forests estimates that the average life expectancy of a downtown urban street tree is just 13 years, while their rural counterparts can live up to 100 years or more. So how do we continue to increase the number of trees in urban areas while combatting the potential troubles that they face?

  1. Practice good site planning.Consider whether the planting site has adequate space (a good rule of thumb is to provide at least two cubic feet of usable soil for every one square foot of expected mature canopy) and whether the site’s use will create any potential conflicts with trees. Different urban locations may require different considerations for tree planting.
  2. Improve the site conditions if necessary.Evaluate the planting site to determine if you need to apply soil amendments to improve the soils or to remove invasive species to reduce competition
  3. Choose the right tree species.Select tree species that are appropriate for the climate and site conditions, including soils and sun exposure.
  4. Use proper planting techniques and be sure to maintain your tree.Planting a tree is not difficult, but it must be done correctly to ensure tree health. It is just as important to properly maintain the tree after planting, including mulching and watering.

The value of trees in our urban environments, as well as the world, is so important to our health and longevity. At Embark, we specialize in urban trees and helping them thrive for the long term. From proper planting techniques to site planning and preparation, to choosing the right species for your home or commercial property, our team of certified arborists is here to help. Give us a call with any questions you may have about trees and the urban environment.