Does a tree have the same cooling power as 10 air conditioners?

René van der Velde is an Urban Forestry Research Fellow with TU Delft. A position which was initiated and funded by branch association VHG. The scientific research will provide the green landscaping sector with more insight in how trees are used in cities and how they could be used better. One way in which research and practice meet is the Urban Forestry conference held during the annual Boominfodag.

An important ecosystem service of trees is cooling. Hence this was one of the first aspects that Van der Velde started working on. According to the researcher, people are making all sorts of claims when it comes to the cooling properties of trees. For example, one tree would have the same cooling power as 10 air conditioners or reduce the air temperature by 1-5 degrees. But these kinds of general statements don’t do justice to the great variety of tree shapes and sizes.

Leaf size

The cooling property of trees consists of a combination of reflection, evaporation, the absorption of radiation, as well as shading, and all sorts of morphological characteristics are playing a role. Not just the size, but also the shape of the crown, the level of transparency, the branch and trunk structure, leaf size, the period during which the tree is in leaf, as well as the colour of the leaves, have an impact on the cooling properties of the tree.

That’s why Van der Velde studies how tree architecture influences the urban climate. His central research question is: Do different (urban) trees have different cooling properties? If so, what are those properties and which tree characteristics cause these differences? (..)

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