Do Dying Trees Lead to More Human Deaths?


Folks at the U.S. Forest Service have found an associative, though not direct, causal link between the death of trees and the death of humans. I wonder if they would have gotten funded for asking directly about such a link. It seemed they stumbled on the finding when researching trees and urban property values.

Aspen Public Radio broke the story last month and PBS picked it up. The takeaway?

“Maybe trees are not only essential for the natural environment but just as essential for our well-being. That’s the message for public health officials.”

But some PBS viewers were not convinced. So PBS did a follow-up with research forester Geoffrey Donovan, in which Donovan explains their results in more detail.

“I appreciate the questioner’s skepticism,” Donovan writes at one point. “Human health is indeed an enormously complex thing, it would seem impossible to pin down the effect of something like trees. This is why the spread of the emerald ash borer was such a unique opportunity.”


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