Protection Toolkit banner - Big Trees April 2013
Trees provide a range of environmental, social and economic benefits that improve our quality of life. Healthy trees increase in value with age and pay big dividends by cleaning our air, purifying water, reducing energy costs and beautifying our communities.

Environmental Benefits

Trees maintain the environment in which we live by moderating the climate, improving air quality, conserving and cleaning water and supporting wildlife.

Credit: Linda Tanner

Credit: Linda Tanner

  • Trees clean the air by absorbing noxious gases and pollutants, improving air quality. One of the key gases they absorb is carbon dioxide, which is a main contributor to climate change. The trees then release oxygen that nearly all the Earth’s inhabitants need to breathe. One mature tree absorbs carbon dioxide at the rate of 48 pounds per year.
  • Trees provide shade and cool urban areas. Shade from trees helps lower temperatures, particularly in urban areas known as “heat islands” — areas that are measurably warmer than surrounding areas — and prevents water from evaporating from the ground too quickly.
  • Trees prevent soil erosion and preserve the integrity of topsoil.
  • Trees slow water runoff through their leaves and absorb polluted water through their roots, allowing pollution to be filtered naturally and improving water quality in rivers and streams.
  • Trees serve as homes for wildlife. They provide ideal places for birds to nest and crevices where small animals — and the tiny insects and micro-organisms that are their food — live.

Social Benefits

The social benefits of trees include improved health, crime reduction, and educational and recreational opportunities.

Credit: Ulf Liljankoski

Credit: Ulf Liljankoski

  • Trees protect people from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. If trees are planted on playgrounds, along walkways and in neighborhoods, they help decrease sun and dangerous ultraviolet exposure, which, in turn, decreases health risks associated with both.
  • Trees can have a calming effect on humans, and studies have shown that neighborhoods with more trees have fewer incidences of violence than communities with fewer trees.
  • Trees reduce noise pollution, muffling noise from roads and highways.
  • Trees help humans heal faster. People recovering from illnesses or injuries have been shown to recover more quickly when they have a view of trees and nature from their windows.
  • Trees along hiking trails, waterways and parks enhance the beauty and enjoyment of outdoor recreational areas.

Economic Benefits

The economic benefits of trees can be both direct and indirect.

Credit: Tony Alter

Credit: Tony Alter

  • Trees can lower air-conditioning and heating costs of a household or business by decreasing energy use. If planted near a building, trees can reduce energy bills by up to 40 percent.
  • Homes that are landscaped with trees are worth four to 15 percent more and sell faster than homes without trees. Trees can also increase the property values of a whole neighborhood or business district.
  • Trees enhance the beauty of communities, and help to attract tourists and businesses. Studies have shown that people walking or driving down a street lined with trees are more inclined to slow down and linger at store windows and are willing to pay up to 12 percent more for goods and services, and the presence of trees encourages patrons to spend a longer time shopping.
  • Communities can save money and even increase revenue by planting trees. Since trees help to control stormwater, towns and cities can save money by investing in green infrastructure, such as trees, over gray infrastructure, for solving common problems like flooding.