In the final installment of Chipps Tree Care’s guide to the rich urban forest here in Edmonton, we want to look at how trees in the city reduce pollution. It’s not just that they consume the carbon dioxide coming from cars before it heads into the atmosphere. They also reduce the amount of energy homeowners consume, cut down on light pollution, and act as sound walls between houses and busy roads. Keeping Edmonton cleaner and quieter is just one more way your local spruce is improving the quality of life in Alberta’s capital.
Scientists have observed that when it comes to reducing emissions like CO2, ozone, and sulfur dioxide, city trees do a lot more of the heavy lifting than their cousins in the wilderness. That mostly has to do with how much more work there is to be done. A mature elm can sequester nearly 50 pounds of carbon dioxide every year, and with over 300,000 trees in Edmonton, that’s a lot of exhaust they keep from concentrating in the atmosphere. In Leicester, UK, researchers discovered that their greenery was responsible for a 7% decrease in pollution for pedestrians across town. Not only does that make for a more pleasant walking environment, it’s a real boon for children with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Besides soaking up all the CO2, the urban forest also reduces the amount of energy homeowners use in the first place. During those hot prairie summers, a well-canopied street can be 5.5 degrees Celsius cooler than a street without any shade. Pavement is a heat sink that raises local temperatures after soaking up the sun for hours on end, but shade can keep air conditioners down, saving locals money and energy. Meanwhile, conifers shield against the blasting winter winds without diluting the rays of the sun, and that can mean some serious savings on heating bills.
Anyone who’s taken an evening walk can attest to an abundant canopy’s ability to turn down the lights, especially in the summer. Shady streets keep light pollution from creeping up into the sky. It’s not hard to tell the difference if you’ve ever looked up at the night sky in an older neighbourhood with more mature trees. You can actually see the stars – and that’s something worth holding onto for future generations of Edmontonians.
Noise pollution is another unwanted side effect of living in the city, but rows of pines make effective noise barriers. Houses that back onto busy arterial roads or highways are often protected from the constant roar of cars and transport trucks by dense rows of pines and other conifers that can provide shelter year-round. Conifers don’t just raise property values because they make a house look better. They actually protect houses near high-traffic thoroughfares from exhaust and noise.
With all the ways the urban forest keeps our city clean and boosts our quality of life, it’s not just the environment you’re helping when you maintain trees on your property. A healthy elm makes a happier home, but the city isn’t the easiest environment for them to thrive. Chipps Tree Care’s arborists are committed to keeping Edmonton a beautiful city through careful, educated care that our customers recognize and respect. We’re serious about keeping our city green, and with everything the urban forest can do, so should you.