Wales continues to lead the way in UK on revealing the immense benefits of urban trees

Street scene, trees, cyclist, traffic

Results of new surveys on tree cover across two urban areas in south Wales have been published.

The surveys were carried out by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Forest Research last year, in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council, and in the Tawe catchment with local authority partners - Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Powys and Dŵr Cymru.

Using i-Tree Eco, an innovative US assessment tool that uniquely quantifies the important benefits trees provide, this is the first time Bridgend and Tawe’s urban trees have been assessed to understand the range of tree species, their condition and location. 

Dafydd Fryer from Natural Resources Wales said:

 “Most of us would agree that living, working and playing in areas surrounded by trees create attractive places that help to improve health and well-being. 

“However, how many of us appreciate their role in removing air pollution, reducing flood risk and storing and capturing carbon from the atmosphere?

“What the i-Tree Eco studies show us is the huge contribution trees, especially the long-lived trees to the many critical challenges facing our towns and cities. 

“Crucially it demonstrates that, by fully integrating trees into future planning and road projects, they offer cost-effective solutions. With the studies identifying 25% of land available to be planted with trees, there is a clear opportunity to invest for the future.”

The annual ecosystem services provided by the Tawe catchment’s 530,000 urban trees are valued at £1,720,000 with the 440,000 trees in Bridgend County Borough worth £950,000. The studies also calculated how much it would cost to replace all trees, totalling £816 and £686 million.

Every year, trees within the Tawe catchment area:

  • Intercept 252 million litres of water, saving £333,900 in sewerage charges

  • Removes 136 tonnes of airborne pollutants, saving the NHS £715,000

  • Capture 3,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, worth £671,000

Every year, trees within Bridgend County Borough’s seven main towns:

  • Intercept 124 million litres of water, saving £164,000 in sewerage charges

  • Removes 61 tonnes of airborne pollutants, saving the NHS £326,000

  • Capture 2,080 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, worth £461,400

In addition, the Tawe catchment and Bridgend County Borough’s trees have stored 156,000 tonnes of carbon – with a huge value of £35 million.

Councillor Hywel Williams, Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said:

“When we think about the benefits of trees to our environment, we often visualise the countryside, with stretches of woodland or dense forests. But what about the urban trees that line streets, frame the roadsides and grow in parks and gardens throughout our towns?

“They play an extremely important role in our communities, and this fascinating study has put a monetary value on them by considering what they bring to our lives.”

Cllr Mark Child, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Healthy City and Wellbeing, said:

“We’re rightly very proud of our world class rural landscapes here in Swansea where trees clearly make a hugely important contribution, but trees are important in urban settings, too.

“Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they also play a role in preserving the quality of our environment and contribute to the health and wellbeing of residents. This is why the introduction of more greenery will form part of our exciting plans to transform Swansea city centre into a vibrant and modern destination that mixes a top quality retail offer with homes, offices and leisure and recreational opportunities.

“Swansea compares very well with other UK cities in terms of the number of parks and green spaces we have. The regenerated Swansea Vale, which was once an industrial landscape, as well as Penllergare Valley Woods and Clyne Gardens are among our wonderful wooded spaces.”

The findings are now available to view on the Forest Research website;

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