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I've Got You Covered: The Amount of Pavement Covered by Street Trees
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The trees that grow along urban streets are called street trees. Some street trees are planted between the street and the sidewalk. Other street trees are planted in a strip of land called the median, which lies in between the lanes of traffic. Trees that grow in front yards are considered street trees if part of their canopy covers public areas, such as the sidewalk or the street. The scientists in this study wanted to know how much of the sidewalks and streets were covered by tree canopies in a particular urban area.
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Scientists work to solve problems. These problems are identified because their solution provides a benefit to people. Sometimes a scientist's research might be a part of a larger problem. By solving a small piece of the problem, scientists can provide information so that the larger problem might one day be solved. In this study, the scientists wanted to know how much of a city's paved surfaces should be covered by trees. Paved surfaces include streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. Many benefits are provided by urban trees when they cover paved surfaces. To answer their question, they first needed a way to estimate the current amount of ground and pavement that urban trees cover. This is because the amount of benefits provided by urban trees is related to the amount of ground and pavement that their canopies cover. Unless the scientists found out how much of the city's paved surfaces were currently covered by trees, they could not determine whether more tree cover was needed.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Urban trees provide many benefits to people and their communities. Urban trees keep areas cooler in the summer, helping to lower energy use in buildings. Trees keep the air cleaner by reducing the amount of harmful pollutants in the air. They also help to prevent global warming by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. Trees hold the soil in place and intercept rainwater. When trees intercept rainwater, they reduce the amount of water that runs into stormdrains and washes pollutants into streams and rivers. Urban trees also provide homes for birds and other urban wildlife and make urban areas more beautiful. Most of these benefits depend on how much of the ground, including paved areas, the tree's canopy covers (figure 1). Usually, the larger the area of ground or pavement that is covered by urban tree canopies, the greater the benefits to people.
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