A study led by a U.S. Forest Service researcher suggests that a Philadelphia program to increase tree cover across the city would prevent hundreds of premature deaths citywide, particularly in its poorest neighborhoods.

The city’s goal under its Greenworks program has been to boost tree canopy cover to 30% in each neighborhood by 2025.

The new research suggests that increasing the canopy to that degree could result in around 400 fewer premature deaths annually, because of a variety of factors.

Even a more modest increase, however, would allow more Philadelphians to live longer. Further, growing the canopy could have the most dramatic impact in poorer areas, which tend to have the lowest tree canopy.

“To the best of our knowledge, our report is the first citywide health impact assessment of estimated effects of a tree canopy policy on premature mortality,” the authors wrote in an article published in April in Lancet Planetary Health.

Planting More Trees Can Reduce Premature Deaths

Philadelphia officials plan to improve the tree canopy, which ranges from 2 percent to 88 percent currently. An improved tree canopy can reduce summertime temperatures by 10 or more degrees and improve public health.

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City of Philadelphia, Tree Canopy Study
Staff Graphic