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Urban Forests Help Beat the Heat

This summer we are seeing yet another long list of climate crises. The forests around Yosemite are exploding in fire, the Texas power grid is struggling to keep up with demand, and cities all over Europe are experiencing some of the worst heat ever experienced in that part of the world. While these heat waves cover large areas of the landscape, the temperatures are even more severe in urban environments where the heat island effect is most pronounced. Because of the concentration of dark pavement and masonry structures that quickly absorb the heat from the sun and then radiate that heat back at night, temperatures in urban environments are often up to 5 to 7 degrees F warmer than surrounding areas during the day and up to 22 degrees warmer at night. The heat island effects drive up energy costs, increase air pollution in urban environments, and impact public health by increasing respiratory difficulty, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion.

Unfortunately, these negative impacts are concentrated most heavily on the economically disenfranchised and communities of color. Studies have shown that the intensity of urban heat islands is increasing as a result of global warming causing concern among community planners and environmental resiliency is becoming a key focus of community and regional planning efforts.

Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to moderate the urban heat island effect is relatively simple, affordable, and scalable - planting trees. Trees help reduce the urban heat island effect in two ways. First - and most obviously - the shade from a street tree reduces the sun's ability to directly warm pavement and buildings shaded by trees. However, the more important impact of trees on the local environment is through evapotranspiration. As a tree "breathes" it draws moisture up from the roots and as that moisture evaporates through the leaves the evaporation process absorbs heat and increases the relative humidity around the tree. These effects can be significant. A single shade tree can produce the cooling effects of 10 room-sized air conditioning units operating 20 hours per day.

2022_07_01 Urban Forests Help Beat the Heat

Beyond the positive impact, trees have on reducing the urban heat island effect, there are a lot of other positive impacts of trees in the urban environment including:

  • Trees Reduce Storm Water – 30% of rainfall intercepted by mature trees is absorbed by the foliage, reducing stormwater run-off. This in turn reduces community energy costs. One of the largest municipal consumers of electricity is the water treatment plant.
  • Trees Sequester Carbon – a mature tree can absorb up to 150 kg of CO2 per year.
  • Trees Reduce Paving Costs – paved surfaces that are shaded by trees can have over 50% reduction in paving costs over 30 years
  • Trees Increase Property Values– Homes landscaped with trees are worth 5% to 15% more
  • Trees Increase Business– Businesses on tree-scaped streets show a 12% higher income
  • Trees Reduce Crime– a 10% increase in tree canopy was associated with a 15% decrease in violent crime.
  • Trees Improve Physical and Mental Health– by decreasing high blood pressure and stress. Road Rage is statically lower in tree-scaped urban areas than in treeless suburban ones

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At Cartegraph, we want to help you drive more value from your urban forestry investment. Using the Cartegraph targeted solution for Trees or adding the Trees asset class to your existing Cartegraph enables you to:

  • Inventory all the trees along your streets or in your parks and capture relevant data about species, variety, size, age, crown size, height, etc.
    Conduct regular inspections
  • Schedule preventative maintenance tasks such as treatments for Emerald Ash Borer
  • Use automations to schedule sequential tasks such as planting, staking, fertilization, watering, etc.
  • Integrate with i-Tree to document the environmental impacts of your urban forests
  • Integrate with ArcGIS to ensure that your forestry investments are in line with your environmental equity values

We are also proud of our relationship with Davey Tree who can provide best-in-class services to conduct urban forest inventories, work with you to develop an urban forestry plan, and conduct a full range of arboriculture services.

We want to work with you to help you achieve your green dreams. Please reach out today to stuartrich@cartegraph.com to talk about how we can best help you and your community. Let's all work together towards a more sustainable and environmentally resilient future.