As I sat down to write this column, a hummingbird dive-bombing a dragonfly in our garden distracted me. Drawn outside to watch, I relaxed for a while in the shade of a tree, enjoying the dappled sunlight.
A robin sang melodically nearby and a red-breasted nuthatch gave its scratchy call as it inched up the bark of a cedar tree. Distant traffic and airplane sounds were muted.
I am fortunate to live in a neighbourhood that still has many large conifers and landscaped yards, where birds sing and native bees and butterflies forage among the flowers.
Trees and natural landscapes have many benefits for humans far beyond resource values. Had I undergone a medical procedure, my ability to sit in such a garden could have been critical to recovery. Studies show that hospital patients recover more quickly when looking at trees through a window compared with streetscapes or blank walls.
Children with hyperactivity and seniors experiencing dementia experience greater calm in natural surroundings. Neighbourhoods with trees, parks and gardens encourage walking and other recreation that benefits fitness and health. Trees are essential in making the earth inhabitable, absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen for us to breathe. Their absorption of carbon dioxide is important in mitigating climate change. Trees absorb air pollutants, dust and grime, and take up rainwater from the ground, preventing run off and flooding, and stabilizing bluffs and slopes. Biodiversity is greater where there are native trees that foster specific animal, plant and fungal associations. Western red cedars have an iconic place in First Nations history and traditions, used for houses, boats, clothes and fishing nets. Massive Douglas firs could live for over 1,000 years and grow over 100 metres tall.
Some local trees, like the 30-metre American elm in Ladner's Memorial Park, have been designated as heritage trees, and more are worthy of that title.
In the eagerness to maximize house sizes and profits, many new and infill developments occupy the whole extent of a lot, leaving no room for trees or landscaping. This disregards the many studies that show suburbs with natural landscaping have higher property values. Trees make a neighbourhood a more desirable place to live.
In consideration of tree protection, the Corporation of Delta has just instituted an Urban Reforestation Project aimed at compensating felled trees with new plantings. Perhaps land owners will also consider keeping mature trees, not cutting them.
Anne Murray is a local naturalist and writer. Her books on Delta's natural and ecological history, A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay and Tracing Our Past, a Heritage Guide to Boundary Bay, are available in local stores or from www.natureguidesbc.com.