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: 4.53). 02/2013; 44(2):139-145. DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.066
Source: PubMed


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.

    • "c o m / l o c a t e / f o r e c o projections do not include lost ecological services such as stormwater capture in urban areas or effects of widespread ash mortality on nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and forest productivity (Gandhi and Herms, 2010; Burr and McCullough, 2014; Klooster et al., 2014; Flower et al., 2014). Moreover, loss of urban ash in U.S. cities such as Detroit, Michigan was linked to increased human mortality associated with cardiovascular and lower-respiratory-tract illness (Donovan et al., 2013). Current and potential impacts of A. planipennis have elicited strong interest in development of practical and effective management options, particularly in areas with relatively new infestations. "
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    ABSTRACT: Emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, has become the most destructive forest insect to invade North America. Unfortunately, tactics to manage A. planipennis are limited and difficult to evaluate, primarily because of the difficulty of detecting and delineating new infestations. Here we use data from a unique resource, the SL.ow M.ortality (SLAM) pilot project, to assess whether treating a small proportion of trees with a highly effective systemic insecticide or girdling ash (Fraxinus spp.) trees to serve as A. planipennis population sinks can result in discernable effects on A. planipennis population growth or ash mortality. Components of the SLAM pilot project included an extensive inventory of ash abundance across a heterogenous area encompassing >390 km2, treatment of 587 ash trees with a highly effective systemic insecticide, and girdling 2658 ash trees from 2009 to 2012. Fixed radius plots were established to monitor the condition of >1000 untreated ash trees throughout the area from 2010 to 2012. While only a very small proportion of ash trees in the project area were either treated with insecticide or girdled, both tactics led to detectable reductions of A. planipennis densities and protected ash trees in areas surrounding the treatments. The number of trees treated with the systemic insecticide reduced larval abundance in subsequent years. In contrast, the area of phloem in the insecticide-treated trees had no discernable effect on A. planipennis population growth, indicating that the number of treated trees was more important than the size of treated trees. Significant interactions among girdled trees, larval density, and the local abundance of ash phloem indicate girdling trees has a positive, but complex potential as a management tactic.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Forest Ecology and Management
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · BioScience
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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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    ABSTRACT: Nearly 40 years of research provides an extensive body of evidence about human health, well-being, and improved function benefits associated with experiences of nearby nature in cities. We demonstrate the numerous opportunities for future research efforts that link metro nature, human health and well-being outcomes, and economic values. We reviewed the literature on urban nature-based health and well-being benefits and provide a classification schematic, then propose potential economic values associated with metro nature services. Economic valuation of benefits derived from urban green systems has largely been undertaken in the environmental and natural resource economics fields, but have not typically addressed health outcomes. Urban trees, parks, gardens, open spaces and other nearby nature elements, collectively termed metro nature, generate many positive externalities that have been largely overlooked in urban economics and policy. Here, a range of health benefits is identified and presented, including benefit context and beneficiaries. Although the understanding of these benefits is not yet consistently expressed, and although it is likely that attempts to link urban ecosystem services and economic values will not include all expressions of cultural or social value, the development of new interdisciplinary approaches that integrate environmental health and economic disciplines are greatly needed. Metro nature provides diverse and substantial benefits to human populations in cities. This article begins to address the need for development of valuation methodologies, and new approaches to understanding the potential economic outcomes of these benefits.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Environmental Health Perspectives
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