Benefits of NYC's Urban Forest

Trees enrich and improve our environment and dramatically increase the overall quality of life in New York City. The benefits provided by trees are numerous and diverse, making it important to quantify their value to our city and its residents. 

The primary benefits provided by New York City’s urban forest come in three key areas:

1. Environmental Benefits

  • Slowing Global Climate Change - Urban trees help offset climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide in their tissue, reducing energy used by buildings, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel based power plants. Our City’s trees store about 1.35 million tons of carbon valued at $24.9 million. In addition, our trees remove over 42,000 tons of carbon each year.

    Recently, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development cited a study by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) which advocates planting trees and increasing topsoil as preferable methods of combating global climate change. Since soil and trees effectively store carbon dioxide and other pollutants, ecosystems have been proven to play an essential role in climate mitigation.

  • Water Quality Protection - Urban trees capture rainfall on their leaves and branches and take up water, acting as natural stormwater capture and retention devices. Street trees intercept 890.6 million gallons of stormwater annually, or 1,525 gallons per tree on average. The total value of this benefit to New York City is over $35 million each year.

  • Improved Air Quality - Trees remove dust and other pollutants from the air. In fact, one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, the equivalent of 11,000 miles of car emissions. Our trees remove about 2,200 tons of air pollution per year, valued at $10 million annually.

  • Lower Summer Air Temperature - According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urban forests reduce urban temperatures significantly by shading buildings and concrete and returning humidity to the air through evaporative cooling.

  • Natural Resource Conservation - By using trees to modify temperatures, the amount of fossil fuels used for cooling and heating by homeowners and businesses is reduced. Our City’s street trees provide $27 million a year in energy savings.

  • Wildlife Habitat – New York City’s urban forest provides habitat - including food and shelter for many species of birds, insects, and other wildlife, as well as environmental education resources for New Yorkers of all ages.

2. Economic Benefits

  • High Return of Investment – Over the years the City has invested millions in its urban forest. Trees provide $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on tree planting and care.

  • Increased Property Values - A significant link exists between the value of a property and its proximity to parks, greenbelts, and other green spaces. Smart Money magazine indicated that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3 percent higher than its base price. Street trees provide $52 million each year in increased property values. A recent article in the New York Observer illustrates an increase in property values for buildings in proximity to parks and large street tree species, especially the Callery Pear, Honeylocust, and Pin Oak.

  • Community and Business District Appeal - The greening of business districts increases community pride and positive perception of an area, drawing customers to the businesses. See case study from Washington D.C.

3. Health and Lifestyle Benefits

  • Improved Health - There is growing evidence that trees help reduce air pollutants that can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Green spaces also encourage physical activity - a healthy habit for any New Yorker.

Find more information on how trees benefit our City by consulting the New York City Municipal Forest Resource Analysis report, and the United States Department of Agriculture's Assessing Urban Forest Effects and Values report.