Benefits of Urban Trees

Arm yourself with information on the incredible, measurable benefits of trees on our climate and infrastructure, our health, economy and safety. Learn more about Winnipeg’s tree canopy.

As part of the process of developing a 20-year Winnipeg Urban Forest Strategy (adopted 2023), the City of Winnipeg has prepared a report on the State of the Urban Forest (report here, our coalition’s response here).  It provides the foundation as the first step of measuring our urban forest infrastructure on the way to defining trees as “assets”.

Once defined as “assets”, the economic argument may be more compelling to decision makers to protect and invest in all trees.

 For example, a 40” diameter elm could be valued at $65,000 in Edmonton’s Urban Forest Management Plan published in 2012. In Winnipeg, a 40” diameter elm may not be pruned until 2051, according to our current pruning cycle.  Would this change if the tree was valued at $65,000?

Winnipeg’s Trees

Winnipeg has 14,000 fewer public trees than we had in 2015. Sources: Winnipeg’s Community Trends & Performance Report, 2017 report, (page 139)  and Winnipeg Open Data. Tree Inventory (291,183 public trees as of December 2, 2021)

Winnipeg’s public trees are on a 31-year pruning cycle. Best practice is every 7-8 years. Source: Winnipeg’s Community Trends & Performance Report, 2022 report, (page 181)

In 2020, only 19% of public trees cut down were re-planted. 14,500 public trees remain un-replaced, and the backlog is growing at a rate of about 2,000 trees per year. Source: State of the Urban Forest Report, 2021

Winnipeg has the largest urban elm forest in North America. Underfunding puts it at risk. Sources: Global News and Trees Winnipeg

Winnipeg has 350,000 ash trees and it’s expected that 100% of them will die within the next 10-20 years due to disease. About 100,000 of those are public trees. Sources: Winnipeg Free Press and CTV News and Winnipeg Open Data. Tree Inventory

Winnipeg’s existing tree canopy structural value is estimated at $3 billion: Value is based on services such as reducing cooling and heating costs, helping to manage storm water runoff, reducing demands on drainage infrastructure, and carbon storage. Source: State of the Urban Forest Report, 2021 (page 8)

Climate Mitigation & Infrastructure Benefits

A well-treed neighbourhood can be up to 4 degrees cooler than a neighbourhood without trees. Sources: Arbor Day Foundation and Canopy Org: Benefits of Trees

Trees absorb rainwater, reducing the burden on our combined sewers and aging pipes. Sources: Walkable Communities and American Forests

Young trees absorb CO2 at a rate of 13lbs per tree each year. Source:  Urban Forestry Network

Street trees absorb 9 times more pollutants than more distant trees, converting harmful gasses back into oxygen and other useful and natural gasses. Source: Walkable Communities

Losing a single tree can increase wind pressure on nearby buildings and drive up heating costs. Source: University of British Columbia

A large healthy tree can store approximately 65 times more carbon and remove 15 times more air pollution than a small tree. Source: Green Infrastructure Ontario

Investing $1.00 in natural infrastructure will save $6.00 in future climate change costs: Investments in green (including natural) infrastructure can provide a 6:1 Return on Investment — saved in future damages due to climate change. Source: Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Trees can extend the life of roads. Shade from urban street trees can add from 40-60% more life to asphalt roads. Source: Walkable Communities

Safety Benefits

People drive at safer speeds on tree-lined streets. Source: Walkable Communities

Trees are good for public safety. One study found a 10% increase in canopy was associated with a ~12% decrease in crime. Source: Science Direct

Economic Benefits

Of all infrastructure projects, only trees increase in value over time. ROI? Close to $6 for every $1 spent. Sources: Deeproot Green Infrastructure, and City of Edmonton: Urban Forest Management Plan, and Million Trees NYC, and US Forest Service

Investing in tree maintenance saves cities money. For every $1 spent on maintaining trees, residents saved between $1.88 and $12.80 on environmental and cost savings (depending on the city) through erosion prevention, air quality, energy savings and carbon sequestration every year. Source: Special Report TD Economics

Trees are good for business. Stores on treescaped streets show 12% higher income streams. Source: Walkable Communities

A fully forested boulevard will increase your home’s value. Source: Canopy Org

Trees on private property increase property values. The presence of larger trees in yards and as street trees can add from 3% to 15% to home values throughout neighbourhoods. Source: Green Cities, Good Health, University of Washington

A comprehensive ecological study on urban forests in four cities in Florida showed that property values increased by $1586 per tree on average. Science Direct

Health Benefits

Got Clean Air? Got Shade? Thank a Tree Source: The Nature Conservancy

Street trees in urban environments decreases risk of negative mental health outcomes Source: National Centre for Biotechnology Information–Science Reports and Research Gate

Access to green space can reduce stress.  Research shows significant relationships between the quantity of green space in deprived urban neighbourhoods and people’s stress levels. Source: National Centre for Biotechnology Information–Science Reports

Urban green space can reduce the burden of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease by promoting physical activity, increase immune system, improve sleep etc.  Scientific literature review reveals an extraordinarily broad range of health benefits. Source:   Environmental Health Perspectives

More scientific studies showing benefits of trees…

Green Cities, Good Health. A University of Washington research project documents a huge number of scientific studies supporting the notion that having gardens, parks, and trees in cities leads to life satisfaction and a positive outlook. The web site provides the scientific evidence that supports efforts to better plan, implement, and manage nature in cities. Research findings are sorted and summarized across benefits themes that include healing, safety, and community building. Source: Green Cities, Good Health, University of Washington, US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture

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