A new report released this week by the Doctors for the Environment Australia and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia shines a spotlight on the health benefits of trees with protection against heat, a significant factor in a nation that suffers from intense heatwave conditions.
The report shows that trees lower surface and air temperatures by providing much-needed shade.
New research has also shown that shaded surfaces are approximately 11-25 degrees Celsius cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded surfaces.
This was driven home recently on a hot day in Sydney’s western suburbs in February. In Toongabbie, two parallel streets are virtually identical, except one is lined with trees.
On 16 February, the surface temperature in the tree-lined street was 29.3 degrees Celsius, while the unshaded street reached 50.1 degrees Celsius – a difference of more than 20 degrees.
“Heatwaves in Australia kill more people than all the other disasters combined. Trees are one of the ways that we can really reduce people’s exposure to heat,” Dr Cybele Dey from the medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia said.
“In streets with a tree canopy, temperatures are significantly lower.
“During heat waves, people can suffer heart attacks, strokes, heat exhaustion, and complications with medication. This is happening at a much bigger scale than people realise,” Dr Dey said.
DEA and WWF-Australia’s joint report, Trees: The forgotten heroes for our health, highlights research on how trees are essential to our health and very survival.
The report also found that individual trees can transpire hundreds of litres of water per day which can significantly cool air temperatures.
The report launches WWF-Australia’s ‘We all need trees’ campaign drawing attention to the benefits of trees and the need for Australia to urgently transition from a deforestation hotspot to a world leader in reforestation.