Today’s Solutions: March 31, 2023

Creating more green space in urban areas is a highly effective way to lower temperatures and improve health outcomes during heat waves, but when it comes to tree planting in cities, not all trees are created equal. Research from Rice University finds that 17 “super trees” are most powerful in terms of making cities more livable in a changing climate.

In assessing tree species, the researchers focused on four key factors: the ability to capture carbon and pollutants, the ability to capture water, flood mitigation power, and heat mitigation power. After narrowing down their selection, the researchers planted 7,500 of the identified “super trees” on several sites near the Clinton Park neighborhood and adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel. Data from these trees allowed them to finalize the list and rankings.

Trees on top

Among those analyzed, the live oak and American sycamore came out in first and second place as the most effective trees for making cities more livable. Live oaks were commended for their ability to soak up pollutants while the American sycamore possesses impressive flood prevention and heat mitigation powers. Other top contenders include the river birch, slippery elm, tulip tree, and red maple.

Moving forwards, the planted trees will remain where they are so researchers can continue to monitor their effect on the urban environment. According to the researchers, this data will be used in conjunction with research on preventable childhood asthma cases and ozone levels compared to cardiac arrest rates to boost urban health outcomes through tree planting.

Source study: Plants People Planet – A simple tree planting framework to improve climate, air pollution, health, and urban heat in vulnerable locations using non-traditional partners

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