How Do Trees Affect Your Urban Air Quality?
September 23, 2014
There are lots of reasons to love trees. We talk about the reasons often here on this blog. But it’s valid to wonder what exactly they do for YOU. Take a long deep breath...aren’t those breaths better when the air is clean and fresh? Clean air is a pretty big reason to care about, and care for, our valuable urban trees. We don’t do a very good job at cleaning pollution out of our urban air. It’s lucky for us the trees are pretty good at it. How exactly do trees help keep your air clean?
Trees help to contain dust, ash, pollen and smoke that harm our lungs.
Trees absorb CO2 then turn it into oxygen to release back into the atmosphere for us to breathe. Every acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people every day.
Established trees absorb more carbon dioxide than newly planted trees. For example, a young tree absorbs CO2 at a rate of 13 pounds per tree each year. A tree that is roughly 10 years old can absorb up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year. This alone is a perfect reason to maintain and care for our young trees today so they can work hard for us tomorrow!
Trees absorb carbon monoxide from cars. In one year, one acre of trees absorbs the equivalent of gases released from a car that drove 26,000 miles.
Trees shade our homes which reduces greenhouse effect, which reduces the need for air conditioning by up to 30 percent. This in turn reduces the amount of fossil fuels burned and water used to produce electricity.
What are the most toxic pollutants that trees absorb for us?
- Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is released from burning coal for electricity, and the refining and combustion of petroleum products.
- Ozone (O3) is a naturally occurring oxidant that exists in the upper atmosphere. It is thought to be brought to earth during severe storms or even lightning. Auto emissions mix in the air, then reacts with sunlight to release ozone and another oxidant, peroxyacetylnitrate (PAN).
- Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) Automotive exhaust is the biggest producer of NOx.
- Particulates cause respiratory problems when small particles emitted in smoke from burning fuel. Trees reduce street-level particulates up to 60 percent.
So you can see why it’s pretty important to keep our urban forest, and our own landscape plantings, healthy. A healthy urban forest keeps us healthy! Let’s keep our air clean by planting more trees and, more importantly, take care of the trees we already have. Keeping trees properly pruned, fed and watered will help keep our air, and our kid’s air, clean and healthy.