By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
In Mississippi, where the timber industry brings in billions of dollars annually, trees are often thought of as a commodity, but they are more than that, according to Kevin Locke, senior planner for the city of Meridian.
Trees add much to the quality of life, Locke said. He talked about the environmental, social, and psychological benefit of trees during the city's annual Arbor Day event on Friday. The Willow Oak tree planted on Arbor Day will grow and eventually provide habitat for birds, which eat pesky inspects. That cycle benefits humans, he said.
There are less obvious benefits to having trees around, he said. For instance, the city is currently working on storm water problems downtown.
"We're working on a storm drain project," Locke said. "That tree captures water in its leaves. A mature tree can hold 100 gallons or more."
A forested area can hold thousands of gallons of water, preventing water from running off.
"Trees are green infrastructure," Locke said. "It's like your pipes and your utilities are gray infrastructure. Trees are green infrastructure. They clean the air. If the tree is strategically planted near streets, it cools the asphalt and the asphalt street lasts longer."
Heating and cooling costs are reduced when houses have trees nearby, he said.
"If we had meters on trees that showed you what you were getting — the benefits provided," Locke said, "then we would really think twice about cutting trees."
Locke said one study shows a return of $4 for every $1 invested in trees. He said others studies have shown the presence of trees can reduce the crime rate, and people heal in hospital settings faster if they can see trees.