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The Benefits of Trees

We plant trees for many reasons, including their beauty, stature, and the shade they provide on hot summer days. Economic, social, health and environmental benefits also come from trees found in the urban forest.

For a summary of these benefits for Hartford, CT, see Hartford's Urban Forest - the Challenge.  See also In Defense of Tall Trees from Connecticut Woodlands magazine. 

Economic Benefits:
  • The benefits of trees generally outweigh their costs on an annual basis.

  • As trees age, they appreciate in value. This is unlike other community assets such as fire hydrants or lampposts. 

  • In summer the shade provided by trees reduces the need for air-conditioning, often significantly.

  • In winter, when the deciduous trees have shed their leaves, more sun reaches the buildings near these trees, helping to heat them.  At the same time, strategically placed evergreen trees can block cold winter winds, saving on heating costs.

  • Trees add to overall property values. (around 10% - 20% on average, according to one real estate web site)

The National Tree Benefit Calculator provides information on the benefits that can come from a single tree.  A similar tool, iTree Design, goes into greater detail, particularly on the energy-related benefits.  It also provides an estimate of how those benefits are likely to increase over time with the growth of the tree. 

For a complete discussion of these economic benefits, please see the Northeast Community Tree Guide: Benefits, Costs, and Strategic Planting.

Community Benefits:
  • Trees lined roads have a 'traffic-calming' effect, making roads safer.

  • For pedestrians, roadside trees can provide a shield against oncoming traffic.  (For an extensive list of the benefits of trees along streets, see Urban Street Trees: 22 Benefits by Dan Burden) 

  • Trees provide screening in urban areas where privacy is scarce due to buildings being in close proximity to each other.
  • Trees reduce glare and reflection, making for a more comfortable urban environment.
  • Trees buffer sound and reduce noise pollution.
  • Trees act as meeting places, historical markers in our communities and as living memorials to our loved ones.
  • Trees tend to draw people into public places to share the space with each other, leading to enjoyable social interactions within communities. 

The University of Washington, School of Environmental and Forest Science, researches the benefits associated with trees. The website, Nature Within, provides results of their studies.

Health Benefits: 
  • Trees enhance recreational opportunities year round.
  • Being in the presence of a forested area can reduce stress. 
  • Trees enhance air quality, reducing the severity of breathing problems for some people.
  • Shade provides shelter from the hot sun, preventing overexposure.

The US Forest Service showcases how human health is directly impacted by the condition of trees and forests in surrounding areas.

Environmental Benefits: 
  • Trees act as a wind barrier on blustery winter days.
  • Forested areas have less water runoff and erosion.
  • Forests act as a filter to reduce storm water and  flooding.
  • Groundwater recharge is enhanced in forested areas.
  • Trees improve air quality by absorbing carbon and producing oxygen.
  • Trees provide habitat and food to native wildlife in the area.

American Forests provides information on the positive impacts that trees have on the environment and how management decisions can ensure a healthy forest.

Picnic table under a strong tree canopy: one of the many benefits trees providfe.

Trees and Urban Forests: Learn More  | Forestry Main Page 

Content last updated on October 2019