Urban trees hold historical and cultural significance. They’re part of our urban heritage. They’re landmarks. Old friends.

But they also serve us in other ways.

They clean our air. They shade our pavements. They lift spirits, feed wildlife and beautify our surroundings.

Without trees, our towns and cities would be very different places.


The value of air pollution removal by vegetation to the UK economy.


The total aesthetic value of the UK's woodlands is around £2 billion.

Credit: iStock.com / Franckreporter

Urban trees promote health and wellbeing

Access to nature alleviates stress, stabilises blood pressure and eases anxiety and depression. Green space also provides opportunity for healthy, active lifestyles. People exercise more and feel better around trees.

Planting more trees means investing in our future health and cutting the future costs of health care – a strategy that benefits the most vulnerable in society.

Credit: Andy Sands / naturepl.com

Urban trees create habitats for wildlife

Trees provide homes and food for birds, insects and other wildlife. Whether it’s an ancient woodland or a city park, the presence of trees has a huge impact on biodiversity. A study in Merseyside found that the amount of green spaces – and particularly trees – such as parks, gardens and cemeteries, had the greatest influence on an area’s ecology.1

Credit: iStock.com / U Ozel Images

Urban trees prevent flooding

Trees intercept rain water and can combat surface water flooding. They also improve water quality by filtering out pollution. Interception by leaves and stems can reduce the amount of rainfall reaching the ground by as much 45%.2 Grass and tree pits can slow the flow further, reducing runoff by 99% and 60% respectively compared to tarmac.3

Credit: Marcus Harrison / Alamy Stock Photo

Urban trees improve air quality

Trees can reduce air pollution, quieten noise and keep our cities shaded and cool. Studies show that well-planned trees can act as a barrier and direct air flow; reducing the concentration of pollutants immediately behind them by a factor of two or more.4 In fact, in 2020, the air pollution removal services provided by nature are estimated to have avoided 2,001 deaths, and prevented 49,126 years of life being lost.5

Credit: A.P.S. (UK) / Alamy Stock Photo

Urban trees attract business

Our environment, and trees in particular, has a dramatic and positive impact on our economy. Trees create attractive environments for business investment and development, creating the spaces we all want to visit, relocate to or work in. One study showed that landscaping improvements in Tameside and Cheshire yielded respectively more than 16% and 13% of net growth in employment.7

Credit: Courtesy of Mark Johnston / WTML

Urban trees connect us to our heritage

Trees are the living history of our communities. They have long been symbols of status, wealth and prosperity. Many of the mature street trees remaining in our towns and cities today are the result of Victorian street planning and have been a part of our urban landscapes for generations.

Listen to the podcast

Learn more about how vital urban trees are for local people, wildlife and the environment in our podcast with Adam Shaw and street trees guru Joe Coles.

How you can help urban trees

Whether you plant a tree in your garden, get your community involved or stand up for street trees, you can help make our towns and cities greener.

Plant trees in urban areas

Trees bring beauty, wildlife and a range of essential benefits to urban areas. They clean our air, shade our pavements and improve our health and wellbeing, but we need more.

From gardens and parks to schools, every tree you plant makes a difference. 

Stand up for urban trees

Sadly, urban trees are under constant threat from development, not to mention disease and climate change. And, as fewer trees are planted in urban areas and as street trees come under threat, it’s more important than ever to fight for these urban heroes.

Find your Tree Equity Score

Tree equity is the idea that all communities have equitable access to the benefits of trees where they live, but to make that happen, we first need to find out where disparities in urban tree cover lie.

We've developed a Tree Equity Score tool alongside the US non-profit organisation, American Forests, to help local decision-makers and residents find out if there's a deficit of trees in their area. The
lower the score, the greater the need for trees, while a score of 100 means tree equity has been achieved.

More on what trees do for people and wildlife

Delve deeper into the evidence behind the benefits of trees

1Whitford, V., Ennos, A. R. and Handley, J. F. (2001). ‘City form and natural process’ – Indicators for the ecological performance of urban areas and their application to Merseyside, UK. Landscape and Urban Planning 57(2): 91-103.

2Forestry Commission. Cases for and against forestry reducing flooding

3Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Environment Agency (2015). Water for life and livelihoods. Part 1: North West river basin district.

4Air Quality Expert Group (2018). Impacts of Vegetation on Urban Air Pollution.

5Office for National Statistics (2022). UK natural capital accounts: 2022.

6Cousins, P. and Land Use Consultants (2009). Economic Contribution of Green Networks: Current Evidence and Action.

7Natural Economy Northwest Investment Forum (2013). The new EU green growth opportunity. Green Infrastructure and the European Structural and Investment Funds: Cheshire & Warrington briefing