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Benefits of Trees

The Best Solar-Powered Carbon-Sequestering Oxygen Producers Ever

Trees are pretty awesome. Especially in urban areas when planted in the right place and taken care of to ensure that they remain healthy and we remain healthy.

Did you know that for every $1 invested in a tree in Western Washington, approximately $2.70 is returned in benefits, ranging from air quality, carbon sequestration to aesthetics?

An urban forest means different things to different people. Depending on one’s point of reference, it can be as small as one’s yard or the trees in the planting strip or right-of-way, or it can be as obvious and as large as Point Defiance, the entire City of Tacoma or even the Puget Sound region. This element refers to the urban forest as the natural and planted vegetation within the City of Tacoma.

Trees are an integral part of our communities and the ecological systems in which they exist. They provide significant economic, social and ecological benefits, such as carbon sequestration, reduction of the urban heat island effect, energy savings, reduction of stormwater runoff, improvement of water quality, provide healing and calming qualities, and increase the value of business and residential properties. Planting and maintaining trees helps a city become more sustainable and reduce the negative impacts on the ecosystem from urban development. Trees are as necessary as water, infrastructure and energy to sustaining healthy communities. The health of the urban forest is directly linked to the health of Puget Sound.


Copper beech tree

Our urban forest is a collection of individual trees and plants that could be living in traditional landscape settings or forest remnants in parks, open spaces and private property. It encompasses the living components of the complex urban landscape and is an integral part of Tacoma’s infrastructure. Our urban forest influences and is influenced by the built environment that surrounds it. The juxtaposition of built and living creates the environment that is the City of Tacoma. In our urban forest, a single tree may be as important as a patch of forest remnant.


Tacoma’s urban forest exists on different types of property that are managed differently depending on ownership, uses and the vegetation present. Properties where the urban forest can be found include City-owned property, other publicly owned property such as parks and schools, private property and rights-of-way.


Urban forests and forests in developing areas face a number of challenges that rural or wilderness forests do not. A rural forest area is often owned by a single owner or limited number of owners and can be managed through relatively simple single-purpose policies. In contrast, our urban forest is overlaid with a complex set of ownerships, values and goals with differing maintenance levels and approaches toward tree planting and preservation. Urban forest growing conditions vary greatly from the natural forest processes and are often in conflict with other needs and management goals. Therefore, a multi-faceted approach to management of our urban forest needs to be used to create a high-quality human habitat and to strike a balance between the needs of the community and the needs of individuals.


Quick Facts

Trees reduce runoff and erosion from storms by about 7% and reduce the need for erosion control structures. In urban areas with trees, the use of smaller drainpipes can save cities on materials, installation and maintenance.

The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

Trees in Davis, California, parking lots reduced asphalt temperatures by as much as 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and car interior temperatures by over 47 degrees Fahrenheit.

Trees in urban parks and recreation areas are estimated to improve outdoor leisure and recreation experiences in the United States by $2 billion per year.

Trees reduce crime. Apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52% fewer crimes than those without any trees. Buildings with medium amounts of greenery had 42 fewer crimes.

Americans travel about 2.3 billion miles per day on urban freeways and highways. Studies show drivers exposed to roadside nature scenes had a greater ability to cope with driving stresses.


Trees reduce noise pollution by absorbing sounds. A belt of trees 98 feet wide and 49 feet tall can reduce highway noise by 6 to 10 decibels.

Philadelphia's 2.1 million trees currently store approximately 481,000 metric tons of carbon with an estimated value of $9.8 million.


Hospital patients recovering from surgery who had a view of a grove of trees through their windows required fewer pain relievers, experienced fewer complications, and left the hospital sooner than similar patients who had a view of a brick wall.

Additional resources

How do trees affect the weather? - Stuff You Should Know
USFS- Western Washington Tree Benefit Guide
Tree Benefit Calculator
USFS- Urban Forests and Climate Change
University of Washington and USFS - Green Cities: Good Health
Neighbors and Nature
Benefits of Urban Trees
Is All Your Rain Going Down The Drain?
Kids and Concentration
Save Dollars with Shade
The Large Tree Argument
Vegetation and Violence
Trees and Views
Street Trees and Driver Safety
Urban Forest educational videos and PowerPoint presentations (including tree selection, planting, pruning, etc.)