In the past few decades, trees became one of the many horticultural casualties of the great housing spread. Suburban developments sprouted seemingly overnight, and while most of them boasted a host of amenities, lovely new dwellings, and even postage-stamp sized lawns, there was something missing. Trees were largely absent—either as preserved old growth specimens or new plantings—but recent research tells a startling story about the human need for trees. While we could talk only about how they benefit humans and human settlements, trees also offer a host of other positive offerings for the ecosystem as a whole. Wait, what was that about studies?
Physical and Psychological Benefits
Beyond the politics of climate change, objective data collected by NOAA indicates that our planet is in the midst of climate change directly associated with rising levels of greenhouse gasses. Whether you agree with the point that human activity is involved in this climatic shift or not, what everyone can agree upon is that trees love carbon dioxide. They need it in order to complete the process of photosynthesis, and the byproduct of this action is oxygen. While each species of tree varies, according to basic calculations, a mature specimen will consume as much as 48 pounds of oxygen every year, producing ample oxygen to sustain two adult humans. That’s pretty substantial, but the good news doesn’t end there.
The preliminary findings of several studies indicate that the presence of trees in a living environment reduces stress and psychological burdens. While there’s still quite a bit more research to be done in this area, the effects, whatever their cause, are worth noting. Reduced blood pressure, improved mood and immune function, better sleep and more energy, and even an increased rate of wound healing are all basic benefits to spending time among trees.
Income Inequality and Arboriculture
These data are all pretty compelling reasons to plant trees wherever possible, but a rather interesting trend may offer yet more motivation for arboriculture. One analysis of several conducted in the past five years has shown that income inequality within the built environment—particularly fully urban areas—can be directly correlated to the presence of trees. In spaces that lacked them, intense poverty was often present and could be readily correlated to a unique phenomenon in the United States—the Food Desert. This term describes areas where access to fresh food and basic nutritional needs are often absent or extremely restricted. Would this trend shift if gardens and trees were planted in these areas? The data suggests as much.
The Need to Know
If you’re interested in planting trees on your property, there are several points to consider before you begin. Take a few moments to assess the following list and conduct any research you feel is needed in order to make the right choice.
When you’re ready to buy—the late fall being a great time to plant trees—get in touch with a nursery. Much as in any aspect of life, specialists are the best people to consult. Nurseries make it their business to know everything there is about the cultivation and care of plants. They have the resources to invest in the best techniques and tools, which means trees procured from them are most likely to be healthy and beautiful. In fact, they specifically cultivate and nurture young trees—which grow more rapidly once planted than older individual specimens after transplant. They will be able to offer information and advice on how you can best foster a beautiful and beneficial tree or grove just beyond your window. Why wait? Good health for you and for the environment is nearer than you think.