When you hear the word “city”, trees are probably the last things that come to mind. But for 5,000 years, urbanites have understood the importance of making these towering giants a part of our city living. So, whether you’re a lifelong city dweller or are thinking of planting a tree in your own backyard, here’s how your own urban forest can benefit you!

Those trees lining your favorite street and that shady park you love so much are all a part of an underappreciated and simple way that our cities are becoming healthier, cleaner places to live.  A growing population of city dwellers is connecting to nature, bettering their health, and increasing neighborhood safety with these leafy greens!

Turns out, trees may be some of our most underappreciated urban dwellers.

Image: New York City Skyline Above the Urban Forest of Central Park

Source: Pixabay

For the Love of the Urban Forest

Did you know there is a term for all the trees and greenery you see amongst the brick and mortar of a city? These green areas are called urban forests! While enjoying a stroll through a park or taking a hike through the woods, it’s easy to feel and see the benefits of nature—from decreasing our stress to breathing in that fresh air! And these urban forests in the middle of cities are bringing those benefits to our biggest populations.

Imagine walking around a city and feeling utterly hot and congested without a shred of green in sight.

This was the feeling in New York City in the late 1800s. Cholera was ripping through the city at an alarming rate, taking the lives of over 8,500 people. The culprit? The air. Due to noxious vapors from organic matter, the city dwellers were more exposed to disease. And with the natural greenery missing to make room for the growing populations, there was nothing to bring the noxious air down to healthy levels.

That was, of course, until they discovered the power of trees. So, they planted the seeds!

Now, though we are beyond the times of cholera, trees are still playing a vital role in the health and well-being of city dwellers. But they bring more than just health and environmental benefits to the table: they’re important to our economic and social well-being, as well!

The creators at TED-Ed show us how meaningful trees are to our cities! This video will leave you wanting to plant as many as you can!

Via: TED-Ed 1

TED-Ed is an incredible place to get lost in educating yourself on all kinds of topics! Check out their YouTube channel for more great content!

Embracing the roots!

You can think of the trees in our urban areas like grandparents or parents. They are there to nourish us, provide safety, and contribute to our overall health. Without them, life would be difficult. The same goes for our beloved trees!

There are immediate environmental benefits to planting more trees in urban areas, like better air quality, increasing water protection, lowering air temperatures, conserving resources, and giving more places for wildlife to live! 2 Not to mention the amazing way that trees can slow the global changing of our climate! 3.

Then, of course, we have economic and social benefits to get excited about: increased property value 4, a general increase in community appeal, improved health 5, and even crime prevention 6!

New York City has invested in the importance of its forests with its program called MillionTreesNYC, which is their initiative to plant one million trees inside their city limits!

They have already planted 500,000! You can check out where they are on this map. MillionTreesNYC plans to continue to plant these leafy heroes along streets, in parks, public spaces, and are also counting on private communities to plant some, too.

So, why do we still need even more trees?!

As the world’s population continues to grow, much of that population lives in the inner cities. It is estimated over 65% will be living in the cities of our world by 2050 7. With this rise in population, our urban forests are becoming more important now, than ever before.

Urban forests contribute so greatly to the overall health of a city that the United Nations is even working to plant more! There is a plan in place to bring urban forests to 90 cities in 30 countries in Africa and Asia!

In the US, the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory council has created a ten-year action plan to bring more urban forests to communities. This plan includes everything from awareness to action in urban communities about green infrastructure.

There are many, many cities around the world investing money and time into putting more green into our urban environments. There even seems to be a wave of urban farmers growing in all kinds of creative avenues, like Square Roots who are growing acres of plants in shipping containers!

Whether you live in a rural area or in the urban areas, nature is still an important part of our humanity. Urban forests are a great reminder of that!

As populations in cities grow, we will need to keep the communities happy and well. Enriching our environments with biodiversity, even urban spaces, helps to create better living conditions for all. Our lovely trees will do this for us!

Start your own research today about urban green infrastructure! See how you can branch out and add to the health of our planet by planting a few trees in your backyard. If you want to deep dive into growing urban forests, check out this video so you can begin your journey! Happy growing!

Bring your joy to the surface and share it!

  • Brittany

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  1. TED-Ed. “What Happens If You Cut down All of a City’s Trees? – Stefan Al.” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=zarll9bx6FI&feature=emb_title. Accessed 23 June 2020.
  2. “MillionTrees NYC – About MTNYC – NYC’s Urban Forest.” Milliontreesnyc.Org, 2015, https://www.milliontreesnyc.org/html/about/forest.shtml. Accessed 23 June 2020.
  3. Buis, NASA’s, Alan. “Examining the Viability of Planting Trees to Help Mitigate Climate Change – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet.” Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, 11 Nov. 2019, climate.nasa.gov/news/2927/examining-the-viability-of-planting-trees-to-help-mitigate-climate-change/.
  4. Acitelli, Tom. “Washingtons and the Cherry Tree.” Observer, Observer, 18 July 2007, observer.com/2007/07/washingtons-and-the-cherry-tree/. Accessed 23 June 2020.
  5. “MillionTrees NYC – About MTNYC – NYC’s Urban Forest.” Milliontreesnyc.Org, 2015, https://www.milliontreesnyc.org/html/about/forest.shtml. Accessed 23 June 2020.
  6. “Trees Shed Bad Rap As Accessories to Crime | EnvY : The Journal of the Yale School of Foresty and Environmental Studies.” Yale.Edu, 2012, environment.yale.edu/envy/stories/trees-shed-bad-wrap-as-accessories-to-crime#gsc.tab=0. Accessed 23 June 2020.
  7. TED-Ed. “What Happens If You Cut down All of a City’s Trees? – Stefan Al.” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=zarll9bx6FI. Accessed 23 June 2020

Brittany Nugent

Guest Contributor

Brittany has been writing and creating stories since childhood! She graduated from Holy Family University with a degree in communications, is an avid world traveler (five of the seven continents!), lover of nature, and spends her days working to connect to the world in deeper ways. Have any questions about the awesome world of rocks and crystals? She's your gal.