By Cynthia Orlando
The benefits of trees in cities are well documented. Besides enhancing our city streets, they conserve water, provide habitat for birds and improve air quality. In fact, recent research indicates that leaves of deciduous trees such as maples and aspens take up far more atmospheric pollutants than previously thought.
Tree shade cools hot pavements and sidewalks in summer, prolongs the life of asphalt, and in summer encourages more people to walk around downtown.
Research by the U.S. Forest Service indicates that every dollar a city invests in trees returns $2.70 in benefits. Trees enhance our property values, both commercial and residential. Research by the University of Washington tells us consumers are likely to spend more money on parking and shopping in tree-lined business districts than in those without trees. Healthy trees send positive messages about the appeal of a district, the quality of products there and what customer service a shopper can expect — they’re an important component of any program to attract shoppers and visitors. In short, well-maintained trees are among a handful of attributes that say community leadership make good choices of behalf of residents.
How to keep trees healthy
Many people don’t realize that mature trees often provide far more economic and environmental benefits than small trees. If you’re a business owner with a tree adjacent, let the city know if you notice vandalism on trees, and if you’re concerned that a tree is obscuring your sign, work with the city to either move the sign or prune the tree. Often when a tree reaches the right height, conflicts with signage no longer are a problem.
Mulch trees regularly. Placing a ring of mulch around your trees improves rooting conditions and reduces weeds. Avoid the so-called “volcano” approach to mulching, because your tree’s roots need oxygen. Place no more than 4 to 6 inches of mulch around the tree, keeping it 2-3 inches away from the base.
Please don’t plant flowers at the base of trees. Flowers compete for moisture during summer months. Also, digging around the cutout or base of trees can introduce pathogens into the root zone.
If you still have holiday lights on your tree, be sure they’re removed in a timely manner. And, if you have new construction or remodeling planned, locate a certified arborist to assist with tree protection planning and monitoring.
With considerable foresight and care year-round, the trees in your community will pay you back with environmental, social and economic benefits for years to come.
Cynthia Orlando has a degree in forest management and is a certified arborist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Photo Description: Trees in downtown areas, like these Hornbeams in downtown Salem, have economic benefits to nearby business.