Increase in tree cover could reduce heat-related deaths in cities
A team of researchers from Barcelona have been able to prove that an increase in tree cover in European cities could reduce the number of deaths attributed to higher temperatures during the summer months by 33%. The study was published in The Lancet and involved analyzing data from 57 million citizens above the age of 20.
Tamara Lungman from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health said, “We know that high temperatures in urban settings can lead to cardiorespiratory failure, hospital admissions and premature deaths. We wanted to inform the authorities of the benefits that come with integrating green infrastructures into urban planning, as it helps create more sustainable and resilient urban settings.”
The research team studied the mortality rates of residents over the age of 20 in 93 European cities between June and August 2015. It was found that an increase in tree cover of up to a 30% could decrease temperatures by 0.4 degrees, which in turn contributed to preventing 2,644 out of the 6,700 premature deaths that happened in 2015. It was also found that heat-related deaths accounted for 4.3% of summer mortality and 1.8% of annual mortality.
Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, also from Barcelona Institute for Global Health, added that “There are strong impacts of warmer temperature in cities on mortality, which could be reduced with an increase in tree cover to make the environment cooler.” Thus, increasing tree cover in cities is expected to improve the heat crisis and is likely to result in a reduction of heat-related deaths.