Planting trees could save megacities $500m annually, study finds
Planting more trees could save cities millions of dollars in healthcare, energy costs and environmental protection, according to new research.
A study by the State University of New York (SUNY) found that trees could save megacities more than $500m (£390m) a year by reducing air pollution, absorbing carbon and protecting people during heatwaves.
With one in ten people predicted to live in cities of more than 10 million inhabitants by 2030, urban forests can make these spaces healthier and more affordable, the study found.
“Greening urban areas is critical,” said Theodore Endreny, lead author of the study from SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
“Trees are immeasurably important for human well-being and biodiversity, the underpinning of our quality of life.”
Urban forests can lower the “urban heat island effect” of cities, which are often several degrees warmer than nearby rural areas, worsening air and water pollution and making sweltering workers less productive, the study said.
Plants cool air around them through transpiration and their leaves block heat from the sun, as well as absorbing noise.
During heatwaves - set to become more frequent as temperatures rise - trees can cool buildings, potentially reducing the cost of running fans and air conditioning, the study said.
The researchers focused on 10 megacities across the globe - including Beijing, Moscow and Buenos Aires - and found the benefits of urban forests could nearly double if more trees were planted in areas such as sidewalks, plazas and parking lots.
Urban conservation has been neglected in favour of larger, more remote natural areas, they said.
“If we focus our efforts outside the city, the biggest beneficiaries of [trees] are being neglected,” Endreny said, as more than 700 million people live in the world’s 40 megacities.
Earlier this year it emerged that London was losing its trees at an alarming rate, with felling rates by local councils greatly increasing.
Over 10,000 specimens were reportedly removed by council crews last year alone.