What are the best street trees in the US?

Written by By Katie Young, CNN

As the saying goes, a tree is not a house without walls. But for Los Angeles, the city of concrete and asphalt, that tree has far more symbolic value than simply gathering leaves.

In our fine climate, if we want to sustain ourselves without the aid of aid, it’s in our interest to encourage a steady, healthy amount of trees — anywhere from ten to a few hundred — throughout our neighborhoods.

Trees provide many benefits, not the least of which is shade (which is no longer optional in many coastal areas of the US). They also create habitats for birds, insects and wildlife — of which Los Angeles is flush — and clean the air by removing exhaust particles from the air.

But one relatively recent study suggests that Los Angeles has a very real problem: there are fewer trees on their streets than you might think.

In 2011, researchers analyzed tree cover on 11 major US cities and came up with findings that were clearly discouraging. “Trees on street level in all major cities are declining at a rate faster than the rate of species loss. This suggests that until clear investment can be made into tree cover, street trees will continue to decline.

“Taking the best location at street level is an important idea to address this problem,” the authors say.

Take a look at the most popular street trees in the US (without trees):

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Trees are much more valuable than we might think. In fact, according to a recent Urban Forestry Policy Report released by the USDA Forest Service, tree cover has an enormous amount of conservation value.

“There are plenty of places that might need to cut down a tree — natural areas that could host wildlife or tropical rainforests — but tree cover makes those difficult because it can prevent the loss of native species, which would harm biodiversity.

“Trees also help lower nitrogen pollution, which in turn helps us to improve air quality, and they filter some air pollutants out of the atmosphere. Trees reduce ozone, which can cause respiratory illness in people. Trees can reduce particulate matter in our air, which can cause health problems in people when they come into contact with it. And trees also help to absorb carbon, which may help us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Trees are a significant resource in the ecosystem and help to stabilise the climate.”

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