The Environmental Benefits of Plants and Landscaping
"The Environment" isn't only out there somewhere on the slopes of a distant mountain. The areas
where we and our children live, work and play are also increasingly a part of the environment. And the
plants, lawns and landscapes which make these spaces livable for us also offer environmental benefits.
Adding to their value is the fact that they deliver those benefits at or near the point of origin of some of
the problem they help overcome, such as water pollution, air pollution and excessive storm runoff. Here
are a few of those benefits:
EROSION CONTROL - The roots of landscape plants and turf hold in place disturbed urban and
suburban soil which could otherwise be eroded by wind or water and end up clogging fish spawning
stream beds. The Journal of Environmental Quality reported that " . . .perennial turfgrasses offer one of the
most cost-efficient methods to control water and wind erosion of soil."
TEMPERATURE MODERATION - Elevated water temperatures in streams which flow through
developed areas have been cited as a key factor in some fish population declines. More shade from tress
and shrubs in these areas helps return streams to the lower temperatures required by fish. Deciduous
trees offer the same benefits to land-based creatures, creating summer shade to moderate the urban
"heat islands" which can result from extensive paved areas. In winter, they lose their leaves to allow
GROUND WATER RECHARGE AND STORMWATER CONTROL - As rain water is slowed by
the leaves and then by the roots of plants, runoff is slowed, and water moves downward, pulled by
gravity. The groundwater recharge rate increases toward the natural rates which existed before the area
was developed. By the same mechanism when storm water runoff is slowed, runoff water volume
decrease and quality improves.
WATER QUALITY - Trees, shrubs, turf and groundcovers trap and filter dust, nutrients and other
pollutants out of rain water. Nutrients are put to beneficial use and become part of the growing plants,
instead of ending up as algae-promoting water pollution.
AIR QUALITY - Each tree removes 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year and
releases about 13 pounds of oxygen - enough each day for a family of four. Other plants also perform this
life-giving conversion.This helps stabilize the atmosphere against any "greenhouse" effect.
WILDLIFE HABITAT - Plants provide food, living spaces and other needs - otherwise known as
"habitat" -.for birds and a variety of wildlife. This helps maintain or re-establish biodiversity, even after
wild areas have been developed.
WILDFIRE CONTROL - Following the big Oakland/Berkeley fire of 1991, fire officials in those
California cities stated: "A green lawn around the home is a smart water investment. It protects property
and may even save lives." Anything which contributes to the early extinguishing of a wildfire, of course,
also protects environmental assets.
NOISE REDUCTION AND MODIFICATION - Properly selected and placed plantings absorb
sound waves, and can significantly reduce unwanted "noise pollution." Additionally, in the presence of
breeze, some plants make pleasant sounds of their own. Further, the wildlife attracted to a planted habitat
sometimes results in pleasant natural sounds. These sounds of nature mask and further diminish
unnatural noise pollution.
CONCLUSION: Plants, lawns and landscaping can help significantly to maintain a quality
environment and repair some of the damage done by development, over-fishing and other human activities.
In Western Washington, plants can provide these values without any irrigation for three quarters of the
year, and with only limited irrigation in the drier few months. To deny the limited water needs of plants
during the short time it is needed, and to do so supposedly in the name of some environmental need, would
be totally counter-productive.
Content Provided By: diyonline.com