Recently, researchers from the US Forest Service and the Davey Institute decided to sit down and calculate how many lives per year urban forests help to save.
The reasoning behind the study came about due to some Forest Service colleagues finding a direct correlation between the number of deaths per year and tree loss.
The study found that the more trees there are in a given area, the lower the death rate. 10 major cities were included in the equation and it was discovered that urban forests save one or more lives per year. How do they do this? Allow me to tell you.
Urban forests help clean the air of fine, particulate matter. including dirt, smoke, dust and soot. This particulate matter air pollution, or PM2.5, can damage lungs and cause a myriad of health problems.
In fact, in Atlanta, GA alone, trees clean 71 tons of pollution a year from the air. In New York City, urban forests clean enough pollution out of the air to save 7 or 8 lives per year!
This research also found that by cleaning up the air, urban forests not only save lives but also reduce the number of days people have to take off work due to illness and reduce the number of hospital visits.
Economic benefits in Syracuse, NY amounted to $1.1 million, while in New York City, the economic benefits were an astounding $60.1 million!
The Forest Service issued a press release stating, in part:
“Overall, the greatest effect of trees on reducing health impacts of PM2.5 occurred in New York City due to its relatively large human population and the trees’ moderately high removal rate and reduction in pollution concentration.
The greatest overall removal by trees was in Atlanta due to its relatively high percent tree cover and PM2.5 concentrations.”
These unbelievable findings only covered the benefits associated with cleaning up PM2.5. They didn’t even touch on the life-saving and economic benefits that are reaped from the urban forest’s ability to clean up sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, larger soot particles and other types of air pollutants.
As Forest Service researcher, Michael Rains stated in the press release, “This research clearly illustrates that America’s urban forests are critical capital investments helping produce clear air and water; reduce energy costs; and making cities more livable.”