Georgia’s Arbor Day is the third Friday of February, because this time of the year actually is the better time of the year to plant trees successfully in our area. Georgia Arbor Day is sometimes a little confusing because there is a National Arbor Day in April on Earth Day, but most states have their own official Arbor Day because of varied planting periods around the country. Since trees are such valuable aspects of our landscape and lives, it is natural that we should celebrate them on a special day.
If you have been in other parts of America or other countries where trees are scarce, it really can make you appreciate the abundance and variety of trees we have in our area. I think that most of us value trees for the beauty and shade that they provide. They actually play so many more vital roles in our environment.
Trees reduce energy costs. Properly placed trees can reduce air-conditioning needs and break the force of winds and lower heating costs in the winter. According to some research studies, ‘heat islands’ can be created in urbanized areas without the benefit of shade trees. The temperature can rise as much as 12 degrees higher in these heat islands. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that a young, healthy tree has the cooling effect of 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
Trees modify climate and conserve building energy use in three principal ways, according to waterfriendlygarden.com:
• Shading reduces the amount of heat absorbed and stored by buildings.
• Evapo-transpiration converts liquid water to water vapor and cools the air by using solar energy that would otherwise result in heating of the air.
• Tree canopies slow down winds thereby reducing the amount of heat lost from a home, especially where conductivity is high (e.g., glass windows).
Also, in summer, trees shading east and west walls keep buildings cooler. In winter, allowing the sun to strike the Southern side of a building can warm interior spaces.
Trees also reduce urban stormwater runoff. This runoff, which also is known as nonpoint source pollution washes chemicals (oil, gasoline, salts, etc.) and litter from surfaces such as roadways and parking lots into streams, wetlands, rivers and oceans. The more impervious the surface (e.g., concrete, asphalt, rooftops), the more quickly pollutants are washed into our community waterways.
Trees also intercept and hold rain on leaves, branches and bark, increasing infiltration and storage of rainwater through the tree’s root system and reducing soil erosion by slowing rainfall before it strikes the soil.
Real-estate agents have long known that trees can increase the “curb appeal” of properties, thereby increasing sale prices. Research has verified this by showing that home buyers are willing to pay more for properties with a nice tree canopy rather than few or no trees.
Trees also clean our air. Trees produce the oxygen that we breathe and need for life and help to remove air pollution in three ways: by lowering air temperature, by retaining pollution particles and by releasing water into the atmosphere. The USDA cites that an acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and produces 4 tons of oxygen. This is enough oxygen to meet the needs of 18 people each year.
Trees have an intrinsic value for us as well. We like trees around us because they make life more pleasant. Most of us respond to the presence of trees beyond simply observing their beauty. Trees provide a sense of serenity when we are surrounded by them. We feel at peace around them. In fact, studies have shown that hospital patients recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees.
In February, we will be providing a limited number of trees for planting. Our goal is to encourage as many local citizens to help us grow our tree canopy. We will be giving away trees on Arbor Day Weekend on Feb. 21-22. If you would like to reserve a tree, we will have several types — dogwoods; red, white, lavender and deep pink crape myrtles; red maples; white oaks; and vitrex, small bushy flowering trees. Trees will be available while supplies last; we can offer only one per household or organization, so that we can share as many trees as possible throughout our community.
If you would like to reserve a tree, contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880-4888 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We need trees, so let’s celebrate them this month. What would we do without them?