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Kansas Forest Service

Kansas Forest Service
2610 Claflin Road
Manhattan, KS 66502

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Health Trees, Healthy Kansas City

Trees are Mother Nature’s Work Horse.  Trees are the only infrastructure that increases in value as they grow in size and remain in good health.  The trees and forests in Kansas City provide very measurable benefits to residents and visitors of the metropolitan area.  Benefits that are worth millions of dollars to your health and your pocketbook. 

Summary of Kansas City’s Regional Forest Feature, 2010

Here’s how:

Number of trees249,450,000
Tree and shrub canopy cover28.3%
Tree canopy cover18.6%
Most common speciesAmerican elm, northern hackberry, Osage-orange, honeylocust, eastern redcedar
Trees  less than 6 inches in diameter71%
Pollution removal, trees 
          All 5 pollutants25,940 tons/year            ($198 million/year)
          Ozone15,850 tons/year            ($142 million/year)
          Particulate matter6,030 tons/year               ($36 million/year)
          Sulfur dioxide2,260 tons/year               ($5 million/year)
          Nitrogen dioxide1,610 tons/year               ($14.4 million/year)
          Carbon monoxide200 tons/year                  ($257,000/year)
Carbon storage19.9 million tons             ($411 million)
Carbon sequestration1 million tons/year         ($20.7 million/year)
Building energy reduction$14 million/year
Reduced carbon emissions$500,800/year
Structural value$93.4 billion
Ton – short ton (U.S.) (2,000 lbs.) 
Study area in Kansas: Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson and Miami counties Study area in Missouri: Platte, Ray, Clay, Jackson and Cass counties
Carbon Sequestration: The process through which agricultural and forestry practices remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Such activities can help prevent global climate change by enhancing carbon storage in trees and soils, preserving existing tree and soil carbon, and by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. 
Carbon Storage:  The process by which trees store carbon dioxide in their accumulated tissue in roots, stems and branches. 
Reduced carbon emissions: When trees reduce energy consumption by shading buildings, provide evaporative cooling, and block winter winds, demands from power plants is decreased and therefore, emissions from power plants is decreased.    
Green Infrastructure: Green infrastructure consists of strategically planned and managed networks of natural lands, working landscapes, and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functions and provide associated benefits to people. 
Structural Value: The cost to replace the trees that currently exist. Structural value of trees and forests tends to increase with an increase in the number of trees and size of healthy trees. 

So what this really means for the people of the Kansas City metropolitan area is a reduction of hospital admissions and emergency room visits, a lessening of asthma and acute respiratory symptoms, fewer lost school days and fewer lost work days, to name just a few of the health benefits.  To receive even more air quality benefits from the region’s trees, follow these strategies for a Healthier Kansas City:

Increase the number of healthy treesIncrease pollution removal
Sustain existing tree coverMaintain pollution removal levels
Maximize use of low VOC (volatile organic compound)-emitting treesReduces ozone and carbon monoxide formation
Sustain large, healthy treesLarge trees have greatest per-tree effects
Use long-lived treesReduce long-term pollutant emissions from planting and removal
Use low maintenance treesReduce pollutants emissions from maintenance activities
Reduce fossil fuel use in maintaining vegetationReduce pollutant emissions
Plant trees in energy conserving locationsReduce pollutant emissions from power plants
Plant trees to shade parked carsReduce vehicular VOC emissions
Supply ample water to vegetationEnhance pollution removal and temperature reduction
Plant trees in polluted or heavily populated areasMaximizes tree air quality benefits
Avoid pollutant-sensitive speciesImprove tree health
Utilize evergreen trees for particulate matterYear-round removal of particles

Water quality is also a concern to this growing region.  An analysis of the Blue River Watershed was conducted to better understand how changes to the tree cover along the river could affect stream flow.  The project data and the factors of tree cover and impervious cover was calculated to provide the following correlations:

  • Increase of tree cover reduces flow from pervious and impervious areas. 
  • Increase of canopy cover from 34.6% to 40% reduces overall flow by another .4% during simulation period
  • Loss of tree cover in watershed increases total flow by 2.3% - 63.4 million cubic feet.
  • Increasing impervious cover reduces base flow and pervious runoff while significantly increasing flow from impervious surfaces.
  • Increasing impervious cover from 31.5% to 40% of the watershed would increase total flow by another 
    53.7% - 1.46 billion cubic feet.
  • Removal of current impervious cover would reduce total flow by an average of 65.4% - 1.78 billion cubic feet.


  • Dominant cover type influencing stream flow is impervious surfaces.
  • While increasing tree cover along the river will reduce stream flow, increasing impervious cover had a 32X greater impact than tree cover on stream flow.
  • Increasing impervious cover by 1%:  Averaged a 3.2% increase in stream flow.
  • Increasing forest cover by 1%:  Averaged only a .1% decrease in stream flow.

So how does this affect Kansas Citizens?  In the Blue River Watershed, bacteria, elevated nutrients, dissolved solids, hydrocarbons and other trace elements from point sources and nonpoint sources are pollutants of concern.  Where trees grow along a river, creek or streamside, they work as Mother Nature’s filters.  The roots of trees and other woody vegetation anchor streambanks and intercept soil and water pollutants.  The sedimentation of federal reservoirs and other public water supplies is a serious concern in Kansas because sediment flow into public water bodies has reduced the storage life of those public water supplies.  Acres of soil can flow into a watercourse due to erosion and deterioration of streambanks.  Streamside forests also provide habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and improve air quality.


Point Sources: pollution that results from a stationary location or fixed facility.  Conveyance can be discernible, confined and discrete, such as from a pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or floating craft from which pollutants are or may be discharged.  The term is not meant to include agricultural storm water discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture. Sources can be industrial and sewage treatment plants or combined sewers.   Nonpoint Sources: generally results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic medication. Pollutants from non-point sources include excess fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from residential and agricultural lands; oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production; sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding streambanks; salt from irritation practices and acid drainage from abandoned mines, bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes, and faulty septic systems.

Source of tree data, health benefits and regional strategies: 
USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station. Assessing Urban Forest Effects and Values: the Greater Kansas City Region. Found online at 

Source of Blue River Watershed pollutants: 
Mid-America Regional Council. Found online at 

Source for Point and Non-Point Pollution: 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Found online at