MOLINE, Ill. — Did you know that roughly 80% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas? These same areas are primarily dominated by pavement, buildings, and other infrastructure that holds heat and is also prone to stormwater runoff. In addition to these buildings and pavement, urban areas also contain an estimated 5.5 billion trees that provide important benefits to both people and the environment.
Here in the Quad Cities, that is no exception. These trees provide several benefits, more than just shade. They actually reduce heat!
Reducing heat, providing shade
Cities are generally warmer than surrounding areas because they have a lower albedo, or better ability to absorb the sun's energy. The darker pavement, buildings, and other infrastructure make it easy to retain this heat energy, even well into the night!
We often talk about urban heat islands and how most cities, especially at night, will be several degrees warmer than say a spot in the country where very little exists in terms of both pavement and buildings. Trees and other greenery help reduce urban heat by lowering surface and air temperatures, in some cases, by as much as 20 degrees!
Preventing stormwater runoff
As our atmosphere and climate continue to warm, it becomes capable of holding more moisture, leading to more heavy rainfall. This is a problem for many areas since pavement doesn't absorb water, meaning more of it runs off. Urban trees can help intercept, slow, and temporarily store rainfall, minimizing the amount that hits the pavement surface and reducing the amount of runoff.
Reducing air pollution
There are several well-known sources of air pollution in urban environments, including traffic and industrial activity. Urban trees help improve air quality by absorbing these pollutants, like ozone and nitrogen dioxide. They can also intercept harmful particulate matter.
The Power of Trees in the Quad Cities
New data from Climate Central suggests that trees here in the Quad Cities have profound effects on keeping our air cleaner while also preventing millions of gallons of storm runoff.
The study showed that an estimated 69 million gallons of storm runoff water was avoided, nearly 3 million pounds of air pollution was absorbed, and more than 100,000 tons of carbon pollution was also removed from the air, all by trees here! Quite impressive!
The Center for Watershed Protection actually has some really useful information on things to consider when planting trees, plus a complete listing of all the benefits beyond helping our environment.