Note: This is the first of 2 journal posts about creating and maintaining a tree inventory.
There are numerous reasons to make a tree inventory. Starting with good tree identification and an inventory list, you can:
- Determine and increase the environmental impact of trees in your community.
- Improve the process of planting and maintaining trees.
- Assess the social and personal benefits of trees in your community.
- Determine the economic value of the existing trees and those you want to plant.
The number one environmental factor is that trees give us life – or at least an essential ingredient of life, oxygen. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, sulfur, chlorine and small amounts of carbon monoxide. In exchange, they expire the life-giving oxygen we breathe. Trees shading parked cars reduce the evaporation of VOCs from those vehicles. They trap dust and other particulate matter and overall make the air we breathe so much cleaner.
More trees mean cleaner air. Cleaner air means healthier people.
Trees also cool through the evaporation process, roots absorb moisture and leaves evaporate that moisture. These cooling factors reduce the amount we spend on air conditioning and make urban living more comfortable.
In the winter, evergreen trees insulate our home from cold wind, and deciduous trees allow filtered sunlight to warm the home. That can save 10-50% on heating. Less heating and air conditioning cuts the use of fossil fuels and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Designing the landscape to provide cooling in summer and heating in winter makes lots of sense.
Trees reduce runoff into drains and streams by slowing falling rain, allowing it to absorb into the ground and be taken up by the trees. Leaves left where they fall cool the ground and add an absorbent, nutrient rich layer of humus. That’s got two advantages: less watering of the trees in dry weather and less runoff to carry away nutrients.
On top of that, we don’t waste our own energy raking those leaves–got to love that!
Trees also provide vital habitat to animals, birds and insects. As residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural development eats up forests, swamps and grasslands, the planned urban environment plays an ever more important role in preserving and maintaining wildlife habitat.
So trees reduce heat gain in summer, heat loss in winter, reduce runoff, filter water before it hits our rivers and streams, add nutrients to the soil, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, purify the air we breathe, provide wildlife habitat and look great.
Still, why do we need to know the number, location, age and species of those trees? What does knowing do for us? We’ll cover that in the next post. Thanks for joining us on Plants Map.
Resources on the environmental impact of urban trees used in researching this blog post:
- Effects of Urban Trees on Air Quality: David J. Nowak USDA Forest Service, Syracuse NY (PDF File)
- Urban and Community Forestry: Improving Our Quality of Life – Forestry Report R8- 17 USDA Forest Service
Plants Map is developing a custom Tree Tab and is seeking interested indivduals to trial and test to give us feedback on further development. If you are interested please Contact Us and we will be happy to demo the Tree Tab and turn on this tool for your Plantsmap.com profile.
This post is the first in a series of 2 on the topic of creating and maintaining a tree inventory. Click here to read the second post: A Good Tree Inventory Improves The Environmental Impact of Your Urban Forest