Study Reveals a Surprising Benefit of Diverse Urban Forests

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In the heart of our bustling cities, amidst the concrete and clamor, lies an oasis of green that does more than beautify our urban landscapes.

These verdant stretches, known as urban forests, are not just a feast for the eyes but a boon to our health, especially for the heart.

Recent findings from a comprehensive study in California have shed light on how the diversity of these urban forests can play a pivotal role in combating cardiovascular diseases, which remain a leading cause of mortality among older adults.

Understanding the Study

The study in question embarked on a novel journey across California’s urban landscapes, delving into the relationship between the biodiversity of street trees and the rates of heart disease and stroke mortality.

It unveiled a fascinating revelation: areas adorned with a diverse array of street trees boasted significantly lower rates of heart disease and stroke deaths.

This discovery underscores the potential of urban forestry diversity as an unheralded guardian of our heart health.

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity, in the realm of urban forests, refers to the variety and abundance of different species of trees within a given area.

The study utilized the Shannon Diversity Index, a scientific measure, to quantify this biodiversity, shedding light on the complex tapestry of life that thrives in our city streets.

This diversity isn’t just about adding more green to our gray; it’s about creating a rich mosaic of life that nurtures our well-being.

The Link Between Biodiversity and Heart Health

The intricate dance between biodiversity and our heart’s health might seem mysterious at first glance. Yet, the study suggests a compelling pathway: enhanced immune functioning.

Just as a diverse diet nourishes our body, exposure to a variety of trees might bolster our immune system, shielding us from cardiovascular ailments.

This connection between nature’s diversity and our health invites us to reconsider how we cultivate our urban environments.

Implications for Urban Planning

Benefit of Diverse Urban Forests on Heart Health

The implications of these findings reach far beyond the individual, beckoning a transformative approach to urban planning and public health policies.

Cities have the opportunity to cultivate tree-planting initiatives that prioritize diversity, turning urban greening efforts into a proactive shield against cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions.

Such initiatives not only promise a healthier future for our hearts but also a more resilient and vibrant urban ecosystem.

Furthermore, emerging studies underscore urban greening as a critical avenue towards reducing crime rates, illustrating how these efforts can create safer, more harmonious communities.

Practical Takeaways

What can we, especially those in the golden years of life, do to nurture our heart health through urban biodiversity?

Start by advocating for diverse tree planting in your community, participate in local greening efforts, and immerse yourself in the diverse green spaces your city offers.

Even a leisurely stroll under the canopy of varied trees can be a step toward heart health.


The study’s findings illuminate a path forward where urban forests, rich in diversity, serve as sanctuaries of heart health.

As we support and enjoy these diverse green spaces, we not only enhance our urban landscapes but also weave a protective tapestry around our hearts.

Let’s champion the cause of diverse urban forests, for the health of our communities and the beat of our hearts.


Giacinto JJ, Fricker GA, Ritter M, Yost J, Doremus J. Urban forest biodiversity and cardiovascular disease: Potential health benefits from California’s street trees. PLoS One. 2021 Nov 3;16(11):e0254973. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254973. PMID: 34731162; PMCID: PMC8565780.

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Fern Berg - Founder

Expert Gardener & Horticulturist in Training

Fern has planted and currently cares for over 100 different native and exotic fruit, nut, and ornamental trees. She also cultivates an extensive vegetable garden, several flower gardens and cares for an ever-growing happy family of indoor plants. Fern has a special interest in biodynamic farming, food production and closed loop agriculture. Fern founded Tree Vitalize to help guide others with an interest in tree planting, identification and care.