News and Events

The Importance of Trees to Community Health

Published: April 13, 2023

For Earth Month, we’re highlighting some of the important connections between the environment, sustainability and health. This week’s topic: trees

Trees have the unique ability to help us adapt to and mitigate climate change simultaneously while positively affecting mental and physical health.

By around 2050, Omaha and surrounding areas could see an increase in average annual temperatures of 6.4 degrees Fahrenheit and an increase in frequency of extreme rain events. Trees can help us adapt to these changes in climate. Pavement, buildings and other nonpermeable surfaces tend to retain heat, making highly developed areas hotter than those with more trees and other green spaces. This is referred to as the “Heat Island Effect,” and Omaha, Council Bluffs and Fremont are all particularly susceptible to it. Trees, especially large ones with a large canopy cover, can reduce the heat absorbed on the ground and reduce overall surface temperatures. Shaded areas under trees can be 20-45 degrees cooler than areas in the sun. Trees also release water vapor through their leaves, which reduces air temperatures around them.

In addition, nonpermeable surfaces – such as parking lots, sidewalks, roads and buildings – are unable to absorb water. When extreme precipitation events occur, these areas create runoff and potentially hazardous situations with overflowing sewers. Trees help absorb some of the water, decreasing runoff and flooding.

Trees also help improve air quality and mitigate climate change by sequestering harmful carbon dioxide and other pollutants during photosynthesis. Nine out of 10 people living in urban areas worldwide are exposed to air pollution, which is the ninth leading cause of cardiopulmonary death. A mature tree can sequester up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Last but not least, exposure to trees affects mental health. Workers with views of trees outside in the workplace report less stress. In general, individuals who are exposed to more green space report less stress, less anxiety and less depression. People who have spent time in green space also report mental clarity and have positive emotional outcomes.


Upcoming Events

Webinar on the Effects of Air Pollution

To learn more about the health effects of air pollution, join us for webinar titled “Climate Change, Air Quality, and Lung Health.

The event is Friday, April 28, from 12 to 1 p.m. We’ll hear from guest speakers Chris Hamilton and Ashley Kamien from the respiratory care program at Nebraska Methodist College.


Tree Planting Events

825 Building
Friday, April 21, at 11:30 a.m.
Outdoor cafe seating area

Methodist Fremont Health
Friday, April 21, at 12 p.m.
Fountain area near main hospital entrance

Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital
Friday, April 28, at 11 a.m.
East side of parking lot by 201 Building

Methodist Women's Hospital
Friday, April 21, at 1 p.m.

Outdoor cafe seating area