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Urban & Community Forestry

January 18, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about urban and community forestry. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Jason Gordon, Mississippi State University Extension Service Forestry Specialist. Jason, what are some benefits of urban trees, and what's involved in maintaining them?

Jason Gordon: Well Amy, trees provide many benefits in urban areas. Some of those benefits are direct and others are indirect. Some of these benefits include aesthetic enhancements, generally making the neighborhood look better, economic savings, and there's benefits to health and local wellbeing. Of course, urban trees help to converse water and energy. They improve air quality. They sequester carbon and reduce stormwater runoff and erosion. In terms of economics, trees reduce cooling expenses, increase property values, and attract businesses and residents to the community.

They also help save money that is spent heating and cooling homes by providing shade. The amount of savings depends on the climate of the area and location of trees and size and species of the tree, how close are the trees are to the building to provide that shade, in other words. Trees that are located on the south and west sides of buildings typically contribute most to reducing air conditioning demands than trees located on the cooler sides of the building, which is north and east. However, trees also have costs related to planting and maintenance. You have to think about that as well.

Often as residents, we forget that to have an urban forest that benefits us we have to take care of it. That means maintaining that tree, pruning it and taking care of it as it gets older and you have dead limbs and have to think about the roots and so forth. The urban forest is no different from any other organism. If you don't take care of it, you lose the benefits from it.

Amy Myers: We've heard a lot about carbon sequestration. What is that exactly?

Jason Gordon: Well as trees grow, they take up carbon from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it in the form of wood and other carbon based tissues. Carbon dioxide is what you hear about in terms of the greenhouse gases and climate change and things like that. The tree can essentially reduce carbon in the atmosphere, and that's a good thing because high levels of carbon traps heat and creates that greenhouse effect that you've probably heard on the news. Of course when trees die or are removed, some of the carbon is returned to the atmosphere through burning or normal decomposition processes. It's a constant cycle.

Amy Myers: Tell us more about how trees benefit business and residential property.

Jason Gordon: Well, many studies have quantified these benefits and have found that residential property with trees generally command higher appraisal sales values than similar properties without trees. Tree streets have also been shown to attract more shoppers to local businesses. The trees obviously shade shopping areas and pavements and make it more attractive to walk around and spend money in those places. In Mississippi, we can take advantage of our warm climate to have a longer growing season for trees and enjoy them more in public places like shopping areas and have outdoor places to shop and enjoy those trees. Because of all this, local governments can also gain more tax revenue as those prices increase and become more valuable places to live and do business.

Amy Myers: What are the health or social benefits?

Jason Gordon: There's evidence that trees reduce stress, and hospital recovery times are shorter if trees are visible to the patients. This is all based on several years of research. Trees are very important in therapeutic settings as well. Studies have also found a relationship between natural settings and behavioral improvements in children. Urban trees have also been found to influence reductions in certain types of crime. Finally, trees enhance community pride and increase recreational opportunities for people that live in those places.

Amy Myers: Now, how are these benefits determined?

Jason Gordon: There's a tool that's publicly available as a software suite from the USDA Forest Service, and we've talked about it here on Farm and Family radio in the past. It provides urban and community forestry analysis and benefits tool, several different types of tools. It's called i-Tree. That's a major one. Based on standard inputs of meteorological and pollution data and tree data, you can assess the urban forest structure and determine, quantify certain benefits associated with that. Other methods include calculating how much it would cost to replace the tree or appraisal. There's various appraisal methods based on scoring systems you can get from certain appraisal associations. There's always new approaches being developed because we recognize the importance of trees in our neighborhoods and cities.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Jason Gordon, Mississippi State University Extension Service Forestry Specialist. I'm Amy Taylor, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Forestry

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