The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health

Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, Oregon. Electronic address: .
American journal of preventive medicine (Impact Factor: 4.28). 02/2013; 44(2):139-145. DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.066
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT BACKGROUND: Several recent studies have identified a relationship between the natural environment and improved health outcomes. However, for practical reasons, most have been observational, cross-sectional studies. PURPOSE: A natural experiment, which provides stronger evidence of causality, was used to test whether a major change to the natural environment-the loss of 100 million trees to the emerald ash borer, an invasive forest pest-has influenced mortality related to cardiovascular and lower-respiratory diseases. METHODS: Two fixed-effects regression models were used to estimate the relationship between emerald ash borer presence and county-level mortality from 1990 to 2007 in 15 U.S. states, while controlling for a wide range of demographic covariates. Data were collected from 1990 to 2007, and the analyses were conducted in 2011 and 2012. RESULTS: There was an increase in mortality related to cardiovascular and lower-respiratory-tract illness in counties infested with the emerald ash borer. The magnitude of this effect was greater as infestation progressed and in counties with above-average median household income. Across the 15 states in the study area, the borer was associated with an additional 6113 deaths related to illness of the lower respiratory system, and 15,080 cardiovascular-related deaths. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that loss of trees to the emerald ash borer increased mortality related to cardiovascular and lower-respiratory-tract illness. This finding adds to the growing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits.

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    • "Research has now demonstrated links between doses of nature and a remarkable number of health and well-being responses (Keniger et al. 2013). Population-level studies have shown that increased green space is associated with reduced all-cause mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease (Mitchell and Popham 2008, Donovan et al. 2013), reduced asthma prevalence (Lovasi et al. 2008), and enhanced general or self-reported health (Maas et al. 2006, Groenewegen et al. 2012). Other studies have found no association between green space cover and mortality, or even higher mortality in greener cities, suggesting that health benefits might be best measured at finer scales or that the effects vary between locations (Richardson et al. 2010, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Over 30 years of research has shown that urban nature is a promising tool for enhancing the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the world's growing urban population. However, little is known about the type and amount of nature people require in order to receive different health benefits, preventing the development of recommendations for minimum levels of exposure and targeted city planning guidelines for public health outcomes. Dose-response modelling, when a dose of nature is modeled against a health response, could provide a key method for addressing this knowledge gap. In this overview, we explore how “nature dose” and health response have been conceptualized and examine the evidence for different shapes of dose-response curves. We highlight the crucial need to move beyond simplistic measures of nature dose to understand how urban nature can be manipulated to enhance human health.
    BioScience 04/2015; 65(5). DOI:10.1093/biosci/biv032 · 5.44 Impact Factor
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    • "Findings on the links between respiratory health and vegetation or canopy cover in urban areas are mixed. Donovan et al. (2013) found a correlation between residential tree loss (due to Emerald Ash Borer related tree mortality) and respiratory disease. While Lovasi et al. (2008) found that street trees in New York City were associated with a lower prevalence of early childhood asthmas, the results were questioned by Zandbergen (2009). "
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    Environmental Health Perspectives 01/2015; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408216 · 7.98 Impact Factor
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    • "In North America today, Emerald ash borer is quickly killing ash trees, which can comprise more than 35% of the urban forest in some communities (Ball et al., 2007). The consequences of these losses are not restricted to the urban forest and can have important flow-on effects; a recent study showed that the loss of 100 million ash trees in the U.S. has been a contributing factor in more than 20,000 deaths from lower respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses (Donovan et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Diversity in the urban forest is important as it reduces risks from pests and diseases and from climate change and improves resilience in the supply of ecosystem services. To manage and improve diversity, there has been wide-spread acceptance of the 10/20/30 ‘rule of thumb’ proposed by Santamour, which states that municipal forests should comprise no more than 10% of any particular species, 20% of any one genus or 30% of any single family. While the implementation of targets based on Santamour's rule has contributed to a more diverse and resilient urban forest in many cities, there has been little empirical investigation of actual patterns of diversity occurring globally in different climates and land uses. In this study, we explored diversity and the relative abundance of the most common species, genus and family in 151 urban forest inventories from 108 different cities around the world. Observed patterns showed that relative abundance of the most common taxon was a good predictor of diversity and could be a useful measure of diversity for urban forest managers. Relative abundance of the most common taxon was much higher than the proposed benchmark at the species level, but comparable with proposed benchmarks at the genus and family level. Patterns varied by both climate and land use. Diversity was consistently lower in Continental climates and in streetscapes, and higher in Temperate climates and in urban forests that spanned multiple land uses. Further considerations in setting diversity benchmarks are discussed.
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