26 March 2018 | 4 minutes.

Why city-dwellers should care about forests

Frances Seymour
Distinguished Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington DC

Frances Seymour, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington DC

Trees in urban areas make people healthier and happier.

Trees shade city streets and parks raise property values. Trees provide cooling shade and help moderate run-off after storms. They’re good for the mind and body. Urban forests help cleanse the air of pollutants, reducing the incidence of respiratory disease. And their presence makes you feel better: a study in Toronto found that having an additional 10 trees on a city block improved peoples’ per- ceptions of their health by an amount com- parable to a $10,000 increase in income or being seven years younger.

Nearby forests provide urban-dwellers with water, energy, and protection from weather extremes.

Nearby forests provide many of the services that underpin everyday life in the world’s cities. Many of those cities – including Bogota, New York, and Singapore – have invested in protecting forested watersheds to ensure dependable supplies of clean, fresh water for drinking and sanitation. Forested catchment areas also fill the reservoirs behind hydro-electric dams that power city lights.

Forests constitute up to 1/3 of the cost-effective actions to prevent catastrophic climate change

As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, the role of forests in attenuating the impacts of those events is increasingly apparent. Natural forest vegetation helps mitigate the landslides and flooding that often result from heavy rainfall. Restoring tropical mangrove forests could help buffer coastal cities, such as Mumbai, from storms and sea-level rise. And in alpine areas, trees on steep slopes can help mitigate avalanche risk after heavy snowfalls.

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