Big trees equal a forest of saplings

Re: “Seeing the forest for the trees in urban planning,” comment, Feb. 10.

Todd Litman is mistaken when he says: “If we want a healthy urban forest, we must plant more trees than are lost each year.”

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If only it were that simple. Benefits supplied by a single large tree are replaced only by planting many saplings — depending on the species, possibly 200 to 300 or more.

Clearly, infill development makes sense. Yet we have not seen it fulfil its potential of increasing affordable housing or slowing down urban sprawl.

Meanwhile, studies find that living and working in treed environments is so beneficial, one researcher said the ideal would be “a tree at every doorstep.” More people walk, ride or take buses in neighbourhoods with mature trees. Trees make it a pleasure.

Mature trees (not saplings) appeal to tourists, save the city nearly $3 million in flood reduction and other economic benefits and have a substantial effect in cooling streets (up to 5 C, studies say). They can help us save 20 to 50 per cent of energy used to heat and cool homes. Trees reduce wind, clean the air, produce oxygen and, of course, store carbon.

Studies also find treed environments benefit people’s immune systems, reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being and more.

Given all that, when do we start planning to build around at least some of our big trees, and to keep as many as possible?

Grace Golightly


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