Learn how to determine the environmental benefits of a tree in your neighborhood!
Research indicates that trees increase our attention spans and decrease our stress levels. In this activity, you will learn how to identify a tree in your neighborhood and determine its environmental benefits.
In our Sizing Up a Tree activity, you learned how to measure the Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) of a tree. In this activity, you will identify the species of your tree. Then you will use the DBH and an online tool to determine the specific environmental benefits of your tree.
Trees provide some amazing benefits for our community. They intercept stormwater, filtering out pollutants and reducing erosion. They reduce energy consumption by lowering temperatures and providing shade and shelter for our homes. They improve air quality and sequester (lock-up) carbon dioxide. Tree diversity is important as each tree provides their own special and necessary benefits to different degrees. Learn more about the benefits trees provide from the Arbor Day Foundation.
1. Measure your tree's Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) - see Sizing Up a Tree activity to find your tree's DBH.
2. Determine your tree species.
- If you have a tree ID book, use it to determine the species of your tree. Be aware that many ID books utilize a tree’s native range, so trees planted in urban areas frequently require ID books designed for wide ranges or all of North America.
- If you don’t have a tree ID book, you can use a free app or website to determine your tree species. Below are a couple of options:
- LeafSnap - simply take a photo of your leaf, flower, fruit, or bark and then select the species from the options the app suggests. This app does not require you to know any tree identification vocabulary and relies on your ability to match your photo to their suggested species photos.
- Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Identification Field Guide - is a great option for common trees. It utilizes basic tree ID vocabulary (opposite/alternate, simple/compound, lobed/palmate, etc.) and does a good job explaining what the terms mean.
3. After you know the species of your tree, view the National Tree Benefit Calculator.
- Enter the zip code for your tree.
- Enter the species and DBH of your tree and select the land-use type that is closest to your tree.
- Click on the tabs to see the benefits of your tree. Each tab will have some details quantifying the benefits of your particular tree. There will also be a brief explanation.
Asking guiding questions helps your kids understand the importance of trees. Pose questions like:
- How do you think this tree benefits us?
- Why would the tree species matter when we figure out the benefits of an individual tree?
- How would a tree help reduce energy consumption?
- How do trees help reduce water pollution?
- Why do you think this tree is important to us?
- Read more information about tree health.
- Watch this short video to understand the benefits of urban trees.
- Watch this video to see how trees affect cities and the people who live in them.
- Read more information regarding proper care for your trees.
We would love to see where this lesson led you! Share your photos and videos with us by tagging #natureinyourneighborhood and #keepomahabeautiful.