Trees are Great Pollution Fighters in Cities

U.S. Mission photo: Eric Bridiers

Washington — Trees are great pollution fighters: They release oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases. They also help trap particle pollutants, such as dust and smoke. And they keep cities cool and moist — counteracting the “urban heat island” effect.

But there’s only so much city pollution a tree can take. Air pollutants damage trees’ foliage, which they need to make their own food, and make trees more susceptible to harmful insects and diseases.

It takes a tough tree to thrive in a city.

Choosing the right tree to plant depends on what sort of climate you live in. The U.S. Department of Agriculture teamed up with the Chicago Botanic Garden and Pennsylvania State University to produce an illustrated list of trees and shrubs best suited for urban environments. Their guide to the selection of trees and shrubs in urban areas includes photos of each tree and shrub and information about its size and preferred climate. It’s a great place to start if you want to do your part by planting a city tree.

With more than half the world’s population living in urban environments — according to the United Nations Population Fund — it’s time for all of us to find a good tree to plant.