Many of us have been eagerly counting down the days to summer. We tolerate the cold nights, shovelling snow and wearing lots of warm clothes. Finally, summer is here. As the weather gets warmer, we hope that we can spend more time outside.
Although we often think of leaving the city to experience nature at its finest, our urban green spaces and forests also have a lot to offer. Sometimes it just takes a reminder to fully appreciate how urban trees and greenspaces benefit us during the summer months and beyond:
1. Shade – need we say more?
We’ve all experienced the instant relief from stepping into the shade cast from a tree on a hot summer day. In a similar way, trees can moderate the temperatures of our homes, especially when strategically planted in urban neighbourhoods.
The coverage of a deciduous tree on the west side of a house, if filtering sun from reaching the windows and roof, can offer a cooling effect over the building – reducing the need for air conditioning. Of course, a tree canopy over your yard can also reduce the temperatures by up to 2.5 degrees Celsius, making time outdoors more enjoyable in the heat.
2. Beautify neighbourhoods
If you’ve ever been in the market for a home, you know firsthand the impact of trees when you scope out a new neighbourhood. Or perhaps it’s on your daily dog walks around the block that you notice the local greenery. Whether it’s the smell of spring blooms, the crunch of falling leaves or the magic of snow-covered branches, trees offer beauty all year round, often adding value to the property or neighbourhood.
3. Temperature reduction
A tree’s canopy is like a natural parasol, blocking the sun’s radiation and providing shade, while also providing cooling effects to the ground beneath it, like an air conditioner.
When the sun’s rays hit the tree’s canopy, water evaporates from the leaves. This process, known as evapotranspiration, can divert the incoming radiation, cooling the air and reducing the amount of energy left to warm the air.
4. Wildlife habitat
No matter what your relationship is with the critters that frequent your garden, the presence of different types of wildlife is important for the health of local ecosystems.
Trees encourage this biodiversity by offering shelter, food or a place to raise their young for all kinds of creatures, including birds, squirrels, insects, and fungi.
5. Mental & physical wellbeing
You may have noticed a boost in your mood the last time you walked through a forest or spent time among the trees – that’s not a coincidence. Research has found that exposure to urban forests also offers mental benefits including reduced stress, anxiety and depression.
Urban forests also promote physical activity by providing space for recreation and creating an appealing outdoor environment (Mytton, Townsend, Rutter, & Foster, 2012).
Take It All In
However you spend your time outdoors this summer, whether exploring the city or escaping to the wilderness, take note of how the presence of trees and green spaces affects your experience. Do the trees keep you cool on your walk home from work? Can you hear the birds singing on a tree near your window? Appreciate the benefits of trees and the beauty of nature that surrounds you.
Mytton, O. T., Townsend, N., Harry Rutter, H., & Foster, C. (2012). Green space and physical activity: An observational study using Health Survey for England data. Health Place, 18(5): 1034-1041. doi: [10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.06.003]
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