Tree Cover Leads to Lower Crime Rates and More Chocolate

Research shows that tree cover correlates with lower crime rates and higher yields of cocoa beans for sustainable chocolate.
By Staff, Utne Reader
November/December 2012
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New research points out good deeds done by trees.
Photo By Daveyin

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Trees may provide a nice reprieve from the summer heat, but new research suggests they may have their limbs in other good deeds as well. A couple of recent studies show that tree cover can fight urban crime,  help produce higher yields of chocolate, and, of course, save the animals.

Researchers from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service recently noticed a correlation between tree coverage and crime rates in Baltimore, reports Environmental Building News (August 2012). “On average, a 10 percent increase in tree canopy corresponded to a 12 percent decrease in crime, with the relationship most pronounced on public lands such as city parks.” The researchers believe that, to a potential criminal, trees might suggest a well looked after neighborhood where crime is likely to be reported.

In Ecuador, farmers who grow their cocoa beans amidst native trees, as many do, usually see a greater yield of crops than those who expose the plants to direct sunlight. This method, as reported in Conservation (Summer 2012), must be balanced, though. “When 40 percent of the canopy is shaded,” crop production begins to dip again. This optimal coverage amount provides a decent home for some of the tropic’s endangered species, too.

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