Trees are the largest and longest-lived organisms upon the earth. Within a town they are the largest structures in most residential streets and open spaces and are only dwarfed by high-rise buildings. Globally they are crucial in maintaining the delicate balances of nature allowing the continuance of life.
Locally, in towns, mature trees act as air filters, each tree able to remove 10 kg of dust from the air each day. Therefore trees are very desirable along roads, busy streets and shopping areas. With the rise in road traffic this is beneficial to everyone, especially those children and older people who have respiratory problems like asthma.
A large mature forest type tree, such as a Beech, can take 2.5 kg of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the air and provide 1.7 kg of vital oxygen every hour. In one year enough oxygen can be produced by one tree of this type for ten people.
In summer, sitting or playing under the shade of a tree can help reduce the likelihood of skin cancers. Trees also help to keep the air fresher and cooler in towns during hot weather. In addition trees also contribute to our mental well being, with open spaces containing trees for shade and recreation. While buildings remain unchanging, trees provide seasonal variations of flower, leaf, fruit, autumn colour and winter silhouette, which for those of us in towns may be one of the main seasonal changes still left to link us to the countryside.
It is not only the well-publicised trees in tropical rainforests that are under threat and important. The trees on our own doorstep are essential to the vitality of our towns giving character to areas within the Borough, individual streets and homes. However, pollution, development, pests and diseases, underground services, cables and purely being situated close to human activities threaten the continuation of the tree stock of the Borough.
As the pressures increase, each individual tree becomes more vital. In the past each tree has been regarded separately but it is now being realised that we should treat trees in towns as important individual components within the Urban Forest.