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Forests provide invaluable ecosystem services. These include sequestering carbon, filtering pollution from air, limiting extremes in temperature, reducing stormwater runoff and increasing precipitation, to name a few.
In urban settings these kinds of services are especially important in counteracting the detrimental effects of city living to both health and psychological well-being. Trees can also be of economic benefit to a city by providing shade to the north and west of buildings during hot summers thereby reducing the amount of energy used for cooling, and raising the value of properties.
While many cities are tree-scarce, with only limited pockets in the odd park, when a focus on introducing more trees is established, the benefits quickly become tangible. The participants in the urban Addington Bush regeneration project in Christchurch say that the bush creates a cool sheltered haven during hot, gusty Nor’wester days, often a few degrees cooler than elsewhere in the neighbourhood.
With new research in the US is showing that the link between deforestation and climate change requires more attention than it is currently afforded, creating urban forests is becoming a global agenda. According to Professor Brian Stone, approximately 50 percent of the warming that has occurred across the US since 1950 can be attributed to land-use changes, including deforestation, rather than greenhouse gas emissions alone. Stone says that slowing the rate of forest loss, regenerating forests and creating urban forests around the world could significantly slow the pace of climate change.
This is good news for local government and ordinary people who can now feel empowered to make a positive and tangible contribution to the single most pressing contemporary global issue. Projects initiated with the aim of improving urban spaces, such as Urban Forests plans that local councils such as Auckland City and Hutt City have included in their long term plans could also be counted as positive steps towards containing climate change.
Trees should no longer be viewed as just carbon sinks, but also climate managers.