April showers: urban forests improve water

Urban forestry programs and community trees provide many benefits to the individuals and families who inhabit those areas: improved mental health, increased energy savings, cleaner air and beauty. Another benefit of urban trees, and perhaps a lesser-known benefit, is better water quality.

In an article by the North Carolina Forest Service, it said, “healthy urban trees with sufficient growing space for their roots and branches actually appreciate in value, and in the value of the benefits they provide.”

Urban trees continuously provide these benefits in a cost-effective, natural way. In the same North Carolina article it states that forests are more efficient and effective than engineering solutions at protecting drinking watersheds.

Trees protect and clean water by acting as tree buffers and by intercepting forms of precipitation, which increases water permeation rates and transpiring water, according to an article written by the US Forest Service. These acts, in turn, lead to reduced storm water runoff, flood damage, storm water treatment costs and other water quality problems.

Trees improve water quality by absorbing water and precipitation through their roots and leaves that contains nitrates and other nutrients. These nutrients are beneficial for the tree, but dangerous to humans in high levels.

The tree buffers create barriers that water must pass through. Trees often intercept and use the water that streams through, absorbing nitrates and reducing storm water runoff and flood damage.

Increased water quality and reduced water in runoffs are just some of the benefits that urban trees provide. The benefits of urban trees are boundless and continue to grow. If properly maintained, and sustainably managed, trees can provide these benefits for our communities for years to come.

Contents of this article are shared for informational purposes only. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does not endorse and makes no representations, expressed, inferred or implied, concerning these organizations, programs or services.

For more information contact Ellen Clark (EllenA.Clark@Wisconsin.gov), Urban Forestry Communication Specialist, at 608-267-2774.

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