Friday, September 29

What can we learn from the European cities with the most trees?

The green spaces and trees in cities They offer numerous proven benefits, including capturing part of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by cars, homes and industries, improving air quality by absorbing pollutants, reducing traffic noise and cooling the city’s temperature.

Plogging, the Swedish sport that we should all practice to take care of the environment


Trees help mitigate the urban heat island effect, which occurs when cities are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to human activities.

The trees provide shade and protect the asphalt from the direct radiation of the sun, with which the temperature on the surface is lower. This in turn helps to reduce the building cooling energy costs.

But there are also benefits to people’s health and life. Studies have shown that people with easy access to green spaces enjoy better health and reduce death rates from hypertensionstress, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity.

In addition, there is a sociocultural effect in which green spaces provide opportunities for physical activity, to be in contact with other people, reduce social isolationand improve mental health, reducing the incidence of depression and anxiety.

In a recent study published in the magazine Health & Place It was found that using green spaces as a treatment for mental illnesses manages to improve symptoms thanks to psychological factors that interact with each other: the feeling of evasion and escape, having a space to reflect, physical activity, facing difficulties, having a purpose, interact with other people and share experiences.

It is something that the Japanese practice with this intention for a long time, and it is called shinrin yoku or forest bath. The therapy of shinrin yoku It is not a recent novelty, although it is not an ancient tradition either.

It comes from Japan, where in 1982 the National Forestry Agency began to promote it among the citizens of big cities with the aim of returning to nature in a heavily urbanized society.

The idea was promote knowledge of the natural environment while contributing to the maintenance of forests through an increase in taxes. The initiative was very successful and was soon exported to South Koreawhere it was also adopted as her own.

In general, trees in cities are not an expense, but rather an investment that saves money indirectly in all aspects that affect citizens.

For this reason it is incomprehensible that there are cities that have waged a war against trees, uprooting specimens hundreds of years old that are irreplaceable. Even when saplings are replanted, large trees sequester CO2 more efficiently than small ones, suggesting that they have a disproportionate effect on carbon sequestration. old trees store more carbon in proportion to their size.

woodland champion cities

According to data from the European Environment Agencythe five cities with the most trees and green areas in Europe are Oslo (Norway), Bern (Switzerland), Liubljana (Slovenia), Berlin (Germany) and Madrid Spain).

He Treepedia Green Cities Indexan interactive map created by MIT and the World Economic Forum, allows you to compare some of these cities on a map with the marked green areas, and allows you to verify that, for example, Frankfurt has almost three times as many green areas as Paris, although it remains far from Singapore or Tampa, Florida.

In many of these cities it is fulfilled that the air quality indicesmeasured by the EU Air Quality Indexare related to green coverage, as between Frankfurt and Paris, although there are other factors that cause, for example, Liubljana, despite its woodland, to have poor air quality.

To increase the density of trees, several European cities have implemented reforestation programs. For example, the project “Green City Plan” of Hamburg aims to plant more than 100,000 trees in the next decade. Madrid, for its part, announced in 2022 the “Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity Strategy”, which seeks to plant a million trees in the coming years.

The impact of these initiatives on CO2 capture and air quality is even more significant. A single tree can absorb up to 22 kg of CO2 per year on average throughout its life.

Using the project calculator 8billiontrees.coma tree about 50 cm in circumference and five years old stores almost a ton of carbon, produces three tons of oxygen and prevents more than 2,200 liters of water from evaporating.

Regarding its effect on temperature, this tree equivalent to five air conditioners running for 100 hours. But if the tree is 20 years old and 1.5 meters in circumference, the effect is multiplied, for example, up to 60 tons of coal.

trees and wellness

Regarding the social and psychological benefits of green spaces, it is easy to understand how they can promote coexistence and well-being. A extensive review of studies found that trees in urban areas promote coexistence between different ethnic communities and culture of the city, as well as between different generations and socioeconomic levels.

Trees increase the value of real estate in an area and improve activity for nearby businesses, as well as promote civic awareness and care for the environment in those areas.

Different studies, such as this one published in the journal specialized in town planning citieshave found that citizens who voluntarily participate in tree planting programs have greater life satisfaction and environmental awareness.

In addition, wooded areas encourage physical activity, which in turn is a fundamental factor for mental health and quality of life in urban areas. A recent study in Portland (Oregon, USA) found that for every 100 trees planted, one premature death was avoidedand that produced economic benefits that exceeded 1,000 times the cost of maintaining those trees.

Trees are essential to our cities. They not only improve air quality and help combat climate change, but also benefit our health and economy.

The adoption of programs reforestation in European cities it is a step in the right direction and it is imperative that we continue these initiatives to build a greener and more sustainable future. As Jorge Luis Borges said, we can never do without trees.

If you don’t want to miss any of our articles, subscribe to our newsletters