Planting Trees In Our Changing Climate (2023)

Planting Trees In Our Changing Climate (1)

Shade trees provide a cool respite from urban heat, Middle Branch Park, Baltimore.

Updated: September 22, 2022

Key points

  • Planting trees, mostly native ones, and taking good care of them are key actions individual gardeners and communities can take to limit the impacts of climate change and create beautiful, resilient homes and neighborhoods.
  • Trees provide shading, cooling, cleaner air and water, habitat for wildlife, and stormwater management -- many essential benefits in our natural and built environments.
  • Trees are “carbon sinks”-- they capture and store carbon dioxide, the primary climate-changing greenhouse gas.
  • Maryland has a goal of planting 5 million native trees by 2031. Residents can receive support for purchasing and planting trees. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and many Maryland county governments and organizations offer tree rebate programs.

The benefits of trees in our changing climate

In our changing climate, trees play an essential role both in mitigating climate-warming greenhouse gasses as well as supporting and improving the quality of life in our natural and built living spaces. These are the many benefits of planting and maintaining trees:

Shade & cool your living spaces. Trees help reduce the urban “heat island effect” - the higher temperature of cities due to the prevalence of hard surfaces like roads, parking lots, and buildings, all of which absorb and re-emit heat. In Baltimore City neighborhoods with no trees, for example, summer temperatures have been recorded as much as 10°F to 16°F hotter than surrounding areas that have abundant green spaces and parks. Trees make it cooler by providing shade and releasing water vapor.

(Video) The Surprising Truth Behind Planting Trees and Climate Change

Save energy. Trees that shade your home in the summer and block cold winds in the winter can help you reduce the costs of air conditioning and heating. Planting with energy conservation in mind can lower your energy bills by 3 to 30 percent, depending on the size of the tree, its location, and other factors such as home construction.

Increase property value. Various studies of single-family properties have shown that the presence of trees and neighborhood tree cover increase property value by 2% to 15%.

Sink carbon. Trees are champions when it comes to holding carbon out of the atmosphere. All plants use carbon dioxide (CO2) to generate their own food and energy. In trees, a portion of this energy builds wood which stores carbon for a long time. Trees are “carbon sinks.” They hold carbon inside while they are alive. When they die, some of the carbon gets stored in the soil through roots and decomposition, and some is released back into the air.

Improve health and well-being. Trees contribute to cleaner air by absorbing some air pollutants and capturing particles of dust and ash. Children living in communities with trees have less asthma. Trees improve community walkability, which is connected to a reduction in obesity. Studies also have shown that being around trees reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and increases feelings of calmness. More tree cover has even been associated with less crime.

Provide habitat. Do you enjoy birds? Butterflies? Fish? Trees provide nesting places as well as food for birds, butterflies,and small animals. Native bees and other insects and birds have evolved with native plants, which provide the specific food and habitats they need for survival. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Maryland bees are pollen specialists, meaning they must have pollen from specific native plants to survive and raise their young. For fish: Tree roots stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion, and keep water clear; their canopies provide shade to regulate water temperature and dissolved oxygen – all important conditions for healthy populations of fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Reduce stormwater runoff. Trees help to intercept and soak up rainwater, stabilize the ground, reduce erosion, and keep water clean. Tree planting in urban and suburban areas is especially important to help minimize the amount of stormwater running over paved surfaces to storm drains and carrying pollution to streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Selecting trees with climate change in mind

All tree species have a natural habitat range where they can survive and thrive. As climate change accelerates, more severe weather (floods, droughts), higher temperatures, earlier springs interrupted by freezes, and new pest and disease pressures will put stress on trees in our forests and landscapes. By 2080, summer temperatures in Baltimore, Maryland may feel more like they do in Cleveland, Mississippi, about 6°F warmer. Some tree species will fare better than others in the future. Some tree populations will be able to adapt or migrate gradually to new habitat ranges, while others will not be able to. People can facilitate migration by planting a different palette of trees with climate change and species adaptability in mind. For more on this, refer to Native Plants and Climate Change.

Researchers are working on models to help predict which types of trees will be most adaptable to future climate conditions. These are several examples:

(Video) Planting Trees: Can Trees Undo Climate Change? | ClimateScience #5
  • The USDA Forest Service’s Climate Change Tree Atlas explores traits, habitat suitability, and adaptation potential for 125 tree species. The trees were given an “adaptability rating” to indicate how likely they will adjust to climate conditions in 2100 under low and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. In the Lower Chesapeake area, for example, oaks, red maple, black gum, and loblolly pine are among the species that are expected to be more adaptable.
  • (PDF) Climate Change Projections for Individual Tree Species: Greater Baltimore, Maryland. This list provides a summary of tree adaptability for the Baltimore region, based on the Forest Service’s Climate Change Tree Atlas.
  • (PDF) Climate Change Vulnerability of Urban Trees, Washington, DCis a similar assessment of tree adaptability for the nation’s capital. [Note: This list also gives ratings to some non-native species. Invasive ones (denoted with an *) should not be planted.]

Research is also underway on sourcing, trialing, and breeding new trees that will be suitable for our region’s hotter summers but still able to survive Mid-Atlantic winters. Some trees that are native to the Southern USA: Florida sugar maple (Acer saccharum ssp. floridanum), Florida anise (Illicium floridanum), and Mexican flowering dogwood (Cornus florida subsp. urbiniana), for example, have captured the interest of ornamental plant breeders at the University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum.

There will be trade-offs when it comes to selecting species from outside of our region vs. using regionally adapted native species. In urban areas with high heat, air pollution, and limited planting space, a non-native, non-invasive species might be tougher and better able to survive and provide benefits such as shading and cooling, but it may not support native wildlife as well as a native species, for example.

Questions to consider

With climate change in mind, how do you decide which trees to plant for the best chances of survivability and benefits provision? A piece of general guidance is: Plant mostly native trees. Choose ones best suited to your site and goals. And take good care of them. If you can only plant one tree, think about multiple benefits you could gain with your choice.Here are some questions to consider:

Why choose a native tree?

Maryland native trees are ones that have evolved here naturally. They are adapted to our region’s soil and climate conditions and support native wildlife such as pollinators and other beneficial insects, birds, and small mammals. They are essential to the normal functions of an ecosystem. Will climate change put stress on some native trees? Yes. Therefore, it is prudent also to consider “near native” trees whose natural range of habitat includes our nearest southern seaboard state: Virginia. Native and “near native” will be the better choices for supporting native wildlife and a resilient ecosystem in the year 2100. Non-native trees do provide some benefits too, but trees that are non-native and invasive (e.g. Norway maple, mimosa) should be avoided.

Do some trees sequester carbon better than others?

Yes, but there is a lot of variation in carbon dioxide (CO₂) absorption rate based on species, age, and health condition of a tree. In general, CO₂ absorption is associated with growth rate, with younger trees taking up CO₂ at a faster rate than older, slower-growing trees. The bottom line: planting any new tree that is suitable for your site conditions (soil, sun/shade, moisture) will be beneficial when it comes to carbon sequestration. It is important to keep old trees healthy too; they store carbon as long as they stay alive.

Can I plant trees for energy conservation around my home?

Planting trees can lower your home energy bills by 3 to 30 percent. The amount of savings will vary by size of the tree(s), their location, and other factors such as home construction (e.g., insulation). Shade trees provide cooling in the summer and allow sunlight to pass through for passive solar heating in the winer. Rows of evergreen trees (and shrubs) can provide a protective windbreak in the winter, resulting in lower heating costs. Refer to the section below: Tree placement for home energy conservation.

Which trees can handle tough conditions near city streets and sidewalks?

Small to medium-size native trees recommended for urban areas include: Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum), sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), and American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), among others. For additional recommendations, refer to:

(Video) Climate change: the trouble with trees

Are some trees better for stormwater management?

Yes. Some trees can tolerate saturated soil for a limited period of time, but others are intolerant of wet areas. Rain gardens are typically planted with herbaceous plants and shrubs that can handle short periods of flooding. If you are considering a tree for an area that tends to stay moist, sweetbay magnolia, red maple, blackgum, and river birch are among the species that are tolerant of wetter conditions. Refer to these resources: The Right Tree for Your Lawn and Rain Gardens Across Maryland (PDF).

Are some trees better for supporting wildlife than others?

Yes! Native trees are the best choice when it comes to supporting wildlife. Research by University of Delaware scientist Dr. Doug Tallamy has shown that oaks, willows, cherries, birches, crabapples, maples, and elms are some of the top choices when it comes to supporting native butterflies and moths. Native blackgum, crabapple, hawthorn and serviceberry are great choices for supporting bees.

What are some trees that will provide food?

Fruit trees like persimmons, pawpaws, and figs can be grown in Maryland with less pesticide use compared to other tree fruits like apples, peaches, and cherries, the latter being susceptible to more disease and pest pressures. Beginner gardeners might first want to try growing perennial berry plants such as blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, which are easier to maintain than tree fruits. Perennial berry plants keep soil in place and store carbon too - great for a climate-resilient garden.

(Video) Can Planting Billions Of Trees Halt Climate Change?

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Why do planting trees help to slow climate change answer? ›

As trees grow, they help stop climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in the trees and soil, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.

Why should we plant more trees question answer? ›

Trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe. Trees reduce the amount of storm water runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution in our waterways and may reduce the effects of flooding. Many species of wildlife depend on trees for habitat. Trees provide food, protection, and homes for many birds and mammals.

Why should we plant trees essay 200 words? ›

They are important because they give us fresh air to breathe, food to eat and shelter/shade from sunlight and rainfall. Besides this, there are many medicines in the market that are made up of trees extracts. Apart from this, there are plants and trees that have medicinal value.

How can the planting of new trees help reduce climate change Quizizz? ›

Trees take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Trees block the release of greenhouse gases from soil. Trees help create breezes. Trees release moisture that cools the atmosphere.

Why are trees so important for climate change? ›

The carbon sequestration and storage resulting from planting 2 billion trees will slow the rise of GHG emissions. As well, it will provide a host of co-benefits to communities and the environment, including: Improving air and water quality. Restoring wildlife habitat.

What are the benefits of tree planting to our environment? ›

The roots of trees hold the soil in place as it fights erosion that causes landslide. It also absorbs and store rainwater that helps reduce runoff and sediment deposit after the storms. It also helps recharge ground water supply, prevents transport of chemicals into streams as well as prevents flooding.

What is the best reason why we should plant trees? ›

Trees hold water, prevent flooding, recharge underground aquifers, and maintain water vapor in the atmosphere, increasing the opportunity for rainfall. When forests are cut down, the water vapor in the atmosphere disappears in an area, decreasing precipitation and increasing the risk of drought and desertification [3].

What is the importance of planting? ›

Plants are an essential resource - we rely on them for food, water, medicine, the air we breathe, habitat, our climate and more.

Do you think trees are important in our life? ›

They give us clean water to drink, air to breathe, shade and food to humans, animals and plants. They provide habitats for numerous species of fauna and flora, firewood for cooking and heat, materials for buildings and places of spiritual, cultural and recreational importance.

What are the 10 importance of trees? ›

1) Trees are the basis of sustaining life on earth. 2) Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen by Photosynthesis. 3) They also help in reducing soil erosion by binding the soil to their roots. 4) Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their wood and bark, thus slowing the rate of global warming.

What is the importance of trees in 100 words? ›

Trees give us oxygen, food, shelter, and many more. They are natural air filters and noise safeguards. Areas having a thick estate of trees, are seen to be less loud and generally having cleaner air than the zones without trees. When trees are planted, on its own, the biodiversity of that zone is improved.

What are the benefits of planting trees and making our environment clean and green? ›

Trees promote health and social well-being by removing air pollution, reducing stress, encouraging physical activity, and promoting social ties and community. Children with views of trees are more likely to succeed in school.

How can the planting of new trees help reduce climate change quizlet? ›

Solution. Trees act as carbon sinks. They utilize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to produce food and oxygen for other organisms within their ecosystem.

How does planting trees help in reducing the pollution caused due to the burning of fossil fuels? ›

Trees not only soak up carbon dioxide, they also absorb other harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The leaves and tiny twigs of the canopy catch larger particulates as well, much like a giant air filter.

Are planting trees good for climate change? ›

In the fight against climate change, trees are a vital tool, as they have the ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it for generations. Researchers in the United States and Colombia found the biophysical properties of trees can increase the cooling effect of forests by almost 0.5°C.

Why should we plant trees essay 250 words? ›

Importance of Trees Essay 250 Words:

Trees are true warriors who fight pollution for us right from birth and give us clean and beautiful environment. Trees have been on our earth for thousands of years, they cannot move but can breathe like humans. Trees absorb pure toxic carbon dioxide and provide pure oxygen to us.

What are 5 benefits of trees? ›

Trees and shrubs improve soil and water conservation, store carbon, moderate local climate by providing shade, regulate temperature extremes, increase wildlife habitat and improve the land's capacity to adapt to climate change. These are all benefits forests and shrubs offer the environment and in turn, us.

How do trees contribute to a healthy and safe environment answer? ›

Trees remove harmful pollutants from the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and fine particulate matter. When we bring nature back into our neighborhoods, the air we breathe is cleaner and, in turn, our communities are healthier.

Why trees are important in our life in 150 words? ›

We get oxygen from them and they absorb the carbon dioxide to maintain the balance in the air. The stabilization of soil also depends on them. They are also responsible for rain which saves us from drought. They provide shelter to the world's wildlife.

What is the most importance of trees? ›

Trees' food-making process, photosynthesis, involves absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in its wood. Trees and plants will store this carbon dioxide throughout their lives, helping slow the gas's buildup in our atmosphere that has been rapidly warming our planet.

Why are trees important to us essay? ›

Importance of Trees Essay: Trees are important for our survival as well as the ecosystem. Without trees, life would not have been possible. Trees provide us with two of life's most crucial components – oxygen and food. As we evolved, we started harvesting trees for medicine, shelter and other commercial uses.

Why should we save trees 5 points? ›

Trees produce oxygen, the air we breathe, and they consume carbon dioxide, the air we release. Trees make our environment and atmosphere habitable for us by keeping the temperature balanced. Trees provide so much to humans in the form of fruits, medicines, and shelter that thinking life without them is impossible.

How can we reduce the impact of climate change? ›

  1. Put a price on carbon.
  2. End fossil fuel subsidies.
  3. Build low-carbon, resilient cities.
  4. Increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.
  5. Implement climate-smart agriculture and nurture forest landscapes.
18 Mar 2015

What is the best tree to plant for climate change? ›

Broadleaved species – such as oak, beech and maple – are best because they have a larger surface area of leaves which generates more photosynthesis, whereas conifers absorb more heat.

How can we protect our environment by planting trees? ›

Trees are vital to the eco-system both above and below the ground. Long-reaching roots help to keep soil in place and prevent erosion. While rainwater is absorbed and stored by trees, resulting in less runoff and sediment deposit during storms.

How do planting of trees help us to keep our environment free from pollution? ›

The world's forests absorb a third of global emissions every year. Particles, odors and pollutant gases such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia and sulfur dioxide settle on the leaves of a tree. Trees absorb these toxic chemicals through their stomata, or 'pores', effectively filtering these chemicals from the air.

How do trees make the environment clean? ›

“Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce the greenhouse gas effect, all while providing us with clean air to breathe." Trees become increasingly important in urban settings as they lend a hand with air pollution via their natural cycle of carbon absorption.

Does planting more trees help climate change? ›

Tree planting is the 'most powerful solution in the fight against climate change', an ETH Zürich scientist says. The US is aiming to plant 1 billion trees over the next 10 years to help tackle global warming. Other projects of significant scale include, a scheme to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide by 2030.

Are trees the best solution to climate change? ›

Tree planting is often touted as one of the most effective tools to combat the climate crisis and restore biodiversity. Trees are natural carbon capture and storage machines, but poorly planned reforestation and afforestation projects can actually increase emissions and harm ecosystems.

How many trees do we need to plant to stop climate change? ›

A single mature tree, meanwhile, may take in about 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. At this rate, it would take 640 trees per person to account for all American emissions, which adds up to more than 200 billion trees.

What is the best plant for the environment? ›

Plants To Grow In Your Garden or Yard That Will Help The...
  • Mexican Redbud Tree. ...
  • Native Shrubs. ...
  • Agarita. ...
  • Flame Acanthus. ...
  • Texas Sage. ...
  • Native Perennials. ...
  • Black-Eyed Susans. ...
  • Plant Bee Friendly Herbs and Plants.

How do trees contribute to a healthy and safe environment 5 sentence? ›

Trees contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe.

Why are trees so important? ›

Trees' food-making process, photosynthesis, involves absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in its wood. Trees and plants will store this carbon dioxide throughout their lives, helping slow the gas's buildup in our atmosphere that has been rapidly warming our planet.


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