The many benefits of trees

In recognition of National Arbor Day (Friday, Apr. 28), Parks and Recreation Director Richard Klimes offered the following on the value of trees to the citizens of Muscatine.

Trees near Marina

The dictionary definition of a tree is very vague: “a woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.”

However, trees are much more than that.

The definition provides a physical description but trees are more than just a pretty thing to look at throughout the seasons. Trees provide many benefits from climate control, to health benefits, to renewing the environment around them.

Trees help combat climate change. Not only do they produce oxygen to clean and renew our air, trees cycle out carbon dioxide caused by pollution. With air quality and climate control being a persistent public health issue, trees are needed to improve air quality. Trees can absorb many odors and pollutant gases as the leaves and bark trap these particulates and release healthy oxygen.

Trees provide a shaded halo around them. Conifers (evergreens) do this year round whereas deciduous trees (trees which shed their leaves) have a particular season they create shade. The canopy cover of a location can cool the ground temperature around it or cool pavement if it is a street tree. A large area of the ground shaded also becomes an area protected from harmful UV rays and reduces risks of cancer.

Shade can also have an effect on a Muscatine home’s energy output by cooling the house naturally in the summer allowing the air conditioning to run less and reducing energy use. They become a benefit in the winter by creating a wind block allowing the heating system to have a break as well. Harvested trees can be used as natural heat sources. This in turn reduces carbon dioxide emissions with less demand for energy from power plants.

Trees help with many water issues. They create shade for lawns which slows water evaporation allowing turf to utilize water longer with less stress. Trees are like a sponge during times of rain fall by absorbing many pollutants from storm water runoff before the pollutants can travel to drainage areas and eventually meet a larger body of water. By absorbing a quantity of water during rain falls, trees also help prevent erosion throughout the Muscatine community. The roots themselves become a soil stabilizer as well as a water absorbent.

Trees provide food and habit for wildlife as well as for humans. Many of the fruits we love are grown on trees and shipped to our local grocery stores. There are also trees which bear nuts as there fruit which provides a healthy snack. All of these fruits must be harvested, packaged, and shipped which creates jobs and a better economy.

Trees also help the Muscatine economy by providing jobs requiring maintenance. Trees require proper planting and designing to have a healthy start to life. They also need pruning and preventative maintenance to sustain that healthy life, especially in an urban setting. Eventually trees meet the end of their life cycle and will need to be removed and chipped up to become mulch. All of these processes require personal and provide job opportunities.

Trees provide a healthier mental state by improving our physical and mental wellbeing. Well populated tree areas have been shown to have less violence while hospitals have seen better healing and attitudes.

Yes trees do provide many aesthetic benefits as well. They provide Muscatine with a colorful border or a screen to block an unsightly view. They can make a concrete parking lot softer in texture and less harsh. They muffle sounds from our nearby streets. Trees, as well as landscaping in general, provides an environment which increases Muscatine’s property values.

Staff from the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Muscatine completed the treatment for the Emerald Ash Borer on all trees in Weed Park, Riverfront, Cemetery, City Hall and all outside parks last fall.  Seventy trees were treated and the treatment will last us for approximately three years. With the help of donations to the City, city staff has planted and transplanted 200 trees into Air Pots in our nursery.  Approximately 300 trees are currently being housed in the nursery at Park Maintenance and 25 in the nursery at the Muscatine Municipal Golf Course.  These trees will be planted throughout the parks system as they continue to grow and develop.

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