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The Benefits of Planting Trees: More Foliage Means Lower Temperatures

Planted tree to combat rising temperatures and climate change

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Planting more trees can slow down climate change. Science magazine reports, “The restoration of trees remains among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation.” The Arbor Day celebrations this month make it an apt time for taking actions that benefit both urban areas and open spaces.

More than 166,000 square miles of forest habitat—approximately the size of California—in the tropics and subtropics have been decimated in the last 13 years, and about 2.7 million square miles of forest worldwide remain threatened, according to a recent study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Some major ways to take action include:

Avoid buying products linked to deforestation.

Pressure lawmakers to make supply chains sustainable while balancing the need for regulation with the concerns of farmers and businesses. Urge policymakers to enact zero-deforestation policies and bolster the rights and control of forests for local communities and indigenous people, says the WWF.

Donate spare change. By joining Plant Your Change for All, all debit or credit card purchases are automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar and the balance applied toward planting trees. Working together with the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) and Eden Reforestation Projects, the initiative has already planted more than 3 million trees, offsetting 5 million miles of vehicle carbon emissions.

Become a member of the ADF and receive 10 free trees, along with tree nursery discounts; help to qualify a community to receive the Tree City USA designation; or get involved with National Arbor Day, generally celebrated on the last Friday in April, but observed on different days in some states. The organization’s website includes ideas for conducting virtual celebrations if local chapters are not holding public events due to the pandemic. Also consider participating in other ADF programs such as the Alliance for Community Trees and NeighborWoods Month.

Support the planting of city trees. According to a recent study from the U.S. Forest Service reported in Treehugger, the nation’s urban canopies, currently home to approximately 5.5 billion trees, provide roughly $18 billion in annual benefits via the removal of pollution from the air, carbon sequestration, reduced emissions and improved energy efficiency in buildings.

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More of our time is spent indoors than ever before. One of the ways by which nature may improve cognitive function (i.e. the acquisition of and goal-oriented use of knowledge) is by improving memory formation and recall, specifically that of short-term or working memory, and goal-oriented or directed attention; the kind that requires focused effort. By comparing and contrasting 13 studies, a team of researchers has shed light on this complex interaction in research published in Frontiers in Psychology. The studies used the backwards digit span task, which requires participants to invert a series of numbers and repeat them back. All demonstrated significantly improved cognition in nature as compared to urban environments. The benefits of studies like this are two-fold: not only are we learning more about how the brain interacts with its environment, but also how to leverage this interaction to lead healthier, more productive and happier lives.
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