Image: Dmytro Zinkevych 

Houston’s need for cleaner air, cooler temperatures, and flood prevention were all considered in a new study on native tree planting. The study shared the positive impacts forming eco-friendly habits can have towards fighting climate change. 

With Houston ranking No. 11 in U.S. cities with high Ozone Action Days by the American Lung Association, researchers from the Houston Health Department’s environmental division and Houston Wilderness, teamed up to implement a new tree planting framework.

Researchers discovered that if planted in the right areas, “super trees,” or native tree species, have a significant benefit in combating high amounts of pollution and carbon dioxide in the air, as well as extreme heat and flooding.  

“It may seem simple, but planting trees absolutely has a positive impact on the health and well-being of communities, especially communities with high rates of respiratory health conditions,” Dr. Loren Hopkins, Chief Environmental Science officer for the Houston Health Department said in a statement. “Air pollutants absorbed by trees include nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter, all pollutants associated with increased risk of cardiac arrest and asthma attacks in Houston.”

Researchers compared 54 native tree species based on the plants ability to stabilize the ground during floods, absorb the most carbon dioxide and help control heat. Then examiners narrowed down the list to 17 “super trees” that were most optimal for reducing climate change impacts. Live Oak and the American Sycamore Trees were the two best species due to its ability to clean air pollution, and the wide tree tops help keep the city cool. 

The City of Houston and the Tree Strategy Implementation Group (TSIG), facilitated by Houston Wilderness, have plans to plant 4.6 million super trees by 2030 as part of the 4.6 M Trees Scoreboard, an initiative to help the Resilient Houston strategy and Houston Climate Action Plan in making Houston more resilient.

“We all know the difference one tree can make on a hot day in Houston, and if the challenges faced by climate change are left unaddressed, we can certainly expect more days over 100° in this City,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. “Together we are making a significant step towards prioritizing meaningful climate action for Houston’s resilient future.”

To learn more about the study, click hereFor more information about the TSIG, go to houstonwilderness.org.