Benefits of urban trees: what we do and don’t know

Thanks to a grant from Fund4Trees, researchers have expanded knowledge about the physical benefits of urban trees. As the benefits are very wide ranging, the research focussed particularly on cooling, stormwater attenuation and carbon sequestration.

Some considerable research has been and continues to be carried out on the physical benefits of urban trees in the UK, the rest of Europe and beyond. However, initial surveys of the literature suggest that, while some areas have already been well covered, the work has been carried out by many isolated groups of researchers and consequently there has been no overall methodological framework, or even consistent physical basis for their investigations. In addition, some of the benefits have only been modelled, not investigated by experiment, while in many other cases only generic benefits of “typical” trees have been quantified with little investigation of the influence of tree species or cultivation techniques. The result is that, while there is good deal of literature, it is often quite inaccessible to practitioners and the general public.

Professor Rob MacKenzie, Director of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research and Chair of the Fund 4 Trees Research Advisory Committee, said:

“We hear a lot about the general benefits of trees in towns, but practitioners need to know what can be claimed for a specific tree in a specific spot. This review of the state-of-knowledge goes a long way to providing what practitioners need in order to make sound decisions that balance environmental, social, and financial benefits.”

Conducted Dr. Mohammad Rahman from the Technical University of Munich and Prof. Roland Ennos from University of Hull, thanks to a £5,000 Fund4Trees research grant, this project aimed to collect and review the research that has been carried out on the physical benefits of urban trees, identify what is and what is not known about them, and how best to improve our knowledge. The list of physical benefits delivered by trees in the urban environment being quite long, the research scope was narrowed to the following three areas of physical benefits which are often used as a basis for decision-making on urban greening policies and pursued through landscape design in individual projects:

Stormwater attenuation – This article published in the The Conversation on 10 December 2015 provides an overview of findings. Download

Temperature cooling – This article published in The Conversation on 22 December 2015 provides an overview of findings. Download

Carbon sequestration – Findings are detailed in the paper available for download below. Download

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