Human Deaths Associated With Tree Losses

A fascinating study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine found an increased rate of death in areas where many trees had died due to an insect infestation. (The basic premise of the research is that having more trees around is good for human health.) The main culprits in the observed additional deaths were cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.

Image Credit: Donarreiskoffer
Image Credit: Donarreiskoffer

‘In the 15 states infected with the bug starting, an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease compared with uninfected areas of the country.’ (Source: PBS)

100 million trees in a large number of US states have been lost  to the emerald ash borer, an invasive forest pest. While this kind of loss is often thought of as one that is an aesthetic one and therefore emotionally troubling, it appears it impacted public health as well. (Ecologically, it must of had a tremendous impact also.)

One of the researchers explained the potential public health impact of trees, ‘Maybe we want to start thinking of trees as part of our public health infrastructure. Not only do they do the things we would expect like shade our houses and make our neighborhoods more beautiful, but maybe they do something more fundamental. Maybe trees are not only essential for the natural environment but just as essential for our well-being. That’s the message for public health officials.’ (Source: PBS)

The study title is, The relationship between trees and human health: evidence from the spread of the emerald ash borer. Researchers from Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon conducted the study.

Climate change is likely to wreak major havoc on forests, including potentially increasing invasive infestations as ecological systems are put out of whack. Also, extreme weather events might increase forest fires. So are we in danger of losing our health when many trees are destroyed?


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