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Trees in the city. A strategic choice.
Oct 15, 2021 | written by: Laurenz Blindenbacher
More and more people are living in urban areas. That’s why the creation and maintenance of urban forests is an important tool in the fight against rising temperatures. Let’s take a look at the benefits of urban forestation.
When we think of tree planting, vast natural spaces, hills, mountains and entire valleys spring to mind. What we tend not to think about, however, are the places we live in. At least, the majority of us. Because today, 55% of the global population already lives in cities and urban areas. This figure is estimated to rise to nearly 70% by 2050. Planting trees in urban areas not only makes our cities more beautiful, but it can also become a crucial tool in the fight against global warming.
Heat islands in cities
A preliminary starting point for such an analysis is that urban tree populations are not increasing but actually decreasing. A recent study estimated that between 2012 and 2017, up to 200,000 hectares of urban green space were lost in countries such as the United States. In Africa, the figure is even higher. Only Europe has a reasonably positive balance of 0.3% growth.
High maintenance costs, heat, drought and rapidly growing suburban areas are just some of the reasons for the percentage decline in tree cover. The result is that cities are increasingly becoming heat islands. This is because surfaces in urban areas heat up more easily and store heat, rainwater no longer runs off and the cooling effect of trees is lacking as a counterbalance.
Green instead of grey – the importance of urban green spaces
This brings us to the first and foremost benefit of urban green spaces: the cooling effect of trees. This is especially important in cities, which otherwise heat up too quickly. With the right strategic positioning of green spaces, the average temperature of urban centres can be reduced by up to 4 degrees.
And that’s not all.
Trees have many positive effects on urban areas. They are, for example, excellent filters of air pollution and they improve the quality of the air we breathe in urban areas. They regulate water flow, increase water quality and naturally store CO₂. Moreover, they serve as a habitat and food source for animals. This boosts urban biodiversity. Not to mention our mental health. Because let’s be honest: who wouldn’t prefer to live in a green and natural environment?
All the benefits of urban green spaces at a glance, in the United Nations (FAO) overview.
Challenges and opportunities
In the future, it will be important to accurately record urban tree populations so that changes can be measured in concrete terms – the technical means to do this are available. It is regrettable that the number of urban trees is decreasing on many continents. If global temperatures rise, the effort needed to increase the number and improve the living conditions of these trees will also increase.
There is hope, however. More and more cities are making efforts to plant trees. We must of course take into account that planting trees within urban spaces requires careful planning and a strategic approach, to ensure not only that the trees have the best chance of long-term survival, but also that they are properly maintained over time.
These are important decisions that cost money, but perhaps more than an outlay, they should be regarded as an investment, in the future and in a better quality of life for citizens.
Urban reforestation is not the only solution, of course. But it can still be an important part of our nature-based solutions to climate change. Others must follow if the trend is to be reversed in the coming decades.
Our approach: we plant trees in projects all over the world, making a social and environmental impact. Plant a tree with Treedom and make the planet a little greener.