Climate change threatens the survival of urban trees around the world

By 2050, two-thirds of urban trees and shrubs in cities around the world will be at risk if effective measures are not implemented.

This situation would have significant consequences both for action against climate change and for the quality of life in urban environments.

If you’ve experienced the relief of walking from a hot sidewalk to a shady park, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that trees (and shrubs) have a significant cooling effect in cities, as well as offering many other benefits.

They are not limited to being simple umbrellas, but play a crucial role in improving the quality of life in urban environments. The water that plants absorb from the soil through their roots and release through their leaves has a cooling effect similar to that of a natural air conditioner. By evaporating, it helps regulate ambient temperature and provides cooling relief in hot environments.

Urban trees and future challenges

Trees face challenges when they are in conditions that exceed their natural tolerance limits. These extreme conditions can include extremely high or low temperatures, prolonged drought, poor or contaminated soil, among other factors. To adapt to these adverse circumstances, trees use various survival mechanisms, such as developing deeper roots to obtain water or the ability to close their stomata to reduce transpiration and conserve moisture. However, it is important to note that even trees have limitations and can be adversely affected if conditions are too extreme or prolonged. In some cases, this can lead to widespread weakening and even death of the tree. Therefore, it is crucial to take measures to protect and maintain the balance of the urban forest ecosystem in the face of these challenging situations.

A group of researchers from Australia and France has carried out a study published in Nature Climate Change in which they analyze the effects that changes in temperature and rainfall will have over the next few decades on 3,129 tree species present in 164 cities in 78 countries.

Unless adequate measures are taken, it is estimated that by 2050 about two-thirds of trees and shrubs in urban areas worldwide will be at risk. This situation would have serious implications for both climate change action and the quality of life in urban environments.

Although the results may seem daunting, there is still time to implement some strategies to help urban trees survive, thrive and continue to create a refreshing environment.

We are still in time

Urban trees are essential to ensure the quality of life in cities. They play an important role in providing shade, filtering the air and enhancing the aesthetic beauty of urban spaces. They also help reduce the impact of urban heat and mitigate the negative effects of air pollution. It is for these reasons that they are considered fundamental elements for maintaining habitability in urban areas.

These “natural coolers” not only help reduce the electricity consumption of air conditioning, but also have other benefits. On the one hand, they absorb carbon dioxide and purify the air, which is good for our environment. They also help reduce noise and provide habitat for wildlife. Indeed, they are an important part of the sustainability and conservation of biodiversity on our planet.

Being in contact with trees and nature can have a positive impact on our mental health and well-being. Especially during stressful times like a pandemic, trees can be of great help in relieving psychological stress and giving us a sense of calm and connection with nature.

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Incorporating trees and shrubs into urban areas, known as urban forests, is an essential strategy for adapting to climate change and promoting sustainability. This practice is widely used around the world for its multiple benefits.

Urban forests are key to improving the quality of life in cities, but until now little information has been available about whether current climate conditions are outgrowing their resilience or how these conditions compare to projected changes in temperature and weather . and snow) around the world.

More than 1,000 endangered species of urban trees

According to our global findings, various tree species such as plum, oak, maple, poplar, elm, pine, linden, wattle, eucalyptus and chestnut are endangered due to climate change in most cities. These common species are among more than 1,000 that have been identified as endangered.

In fact, about half of the species that make up urban forests are faced with climatic conditions that exceed the limits of natural tolerance to high temperatures or water scarcity. This situation could have a negative impact on your health and performance.

By 2050, both the number of species affected and the magnitude of the impact are expected to increase significantly due to rising temperatures. This situation poses a threat to the health and longevity of urban forests, as well as the benefits they provide to society.

If climatic conditions exceed the natural tolerance of the species, this can lead to diseased trees and limited growth, even death. As a result, the ability of these trees to cool the environment is reduced.

During periods of drought or heat stress, trees implement defense mechanisms to reduce damage to their tissue. One way to do this is to stop the release of water vapor or lose the leaves. However, this means that the natural air conditioning system they provide us stops working when we need it most.

What can we do for urban trees?

Our study plays a globally significant role in supporting 164 city governments in managing and conserving their urban forests. We identify species that may be at risk and require vigilance, as well as those climate-resilient species that are beneficial for future planting.

We can all contribute to the survival of urban woodswhether to continue enjoying its many benefits. To achieve this, there are simple steps we can take.

  1. Helps Increase Soil Infiltration of Precipitation: Decreased rainfall and soil moisture loss pose a significant threat to many species. Therefore, it is important to avoid wasting water down the drain. If you want to take steps to conserve rainwater in your home, consider redirecting it to a rain garden or water tank that can replenish your garden. This practice also contributes to the conservation of local rivers and streams.
  2. It is advisable to plant more trees and shrubs as they help maintain a pleasant temperature in the city for both them and us. You can ask for advice on the right species for your area, resistant to the climate, by contacting your municipality or by consulting an expert horticulturist on the subject.
  3. It is important to consider carefully before deciding to cut down existing trees and shrubs. These veggies provide a number of benefits that may be more valuable than you think.

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