Explore Natural Areas
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​Explore Natural Areas

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The Importance of Natural Areas
There is more to na ​tural areas than picturesque landscapes and picnic spots. Quality natural areas actually perform important services for us—ecosystem services. Woodlands, prairies, and wetlands play a vital role in cleaning our air and reducing the amount of pollutants that contaminate our water.

  • Typical medium-sized trees can intercept as much as 2380 gallons of stormwater a year.
  • One tree can absorb as much carbon in a year as a car produces while driving 26,000 miles.
  • A single tree produces approximately 260 pounds of oxygen per year. Two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four.
  • A single oak tree supports more than 250 species of insect, which are vital to the overall food web which includes humans. And let’s not forget the many birds and mammals that rely on acorns for survival.
  • Trees can use airborne chemicals and even a network of shared fungus fibers called mycorrhizal to communicate with other trees.
  • In one year, an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
  • Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
​Natural areas also have significant financial benefits:

  • Every dollar spent on planting and caring for a community tree yields benefits that are two to five times that investment—benefits that include cleaner air, lower energy costs, improved water quality and storm water control and increased property values.
  • In Indianapolis, each dollar invested in the City’s community trees yielded $5.55 in benefits.
  • Studies across the U.S. have shown that trees reduce crime and violence.
  • Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and can save 20–50% in energy used for heating.
Natural areas are equally important for the survival of most of our native plants and animals. While squirrels and raccoons have learned to survive in the built environment, most wild creatures need a different community – one that involves a wide range of trees, shrubs, plants, insects, and other animals. We are committed to protecting Indianapolis’ special places in order to provide habitat and community for our native plants (flora) and animals (fauna). Indianapolis/Marion County is home to 62 rare, threatened, or endangered plants, animals, and ecotypes. To date, we have protected over 1,500 acres in their defense.

Passive Recreation
Our properties offer Indianapolis residents and visitors access to high-quality passive recreation venues. Birdwatching and low-impact hiking are the most common activities in our natural areas. Quiet observation can be a powerful means of connecting with the natural world, and our properties provide this kind of connection for all ages and abilities.

Passing on a Conservation Ethic
Forest cover in Indiana has increased since the 1960s, but that isn’t the case in Indy. Development pressure continues to threaten our remaining natural areas, and without dedicated voices speaking out for their protection, it will be hard to reverse the trend of lost woodlands. The Office of Land Stewardship works to engage volunteers and educate the public about the inherent value of natural areas. Widespread public awareness of these treasured areas is their best defense.
Like what we're doing? Join us!
There are lots of great ways to get your hands dirty and make an impact on our natural areas. Click to learn how you can Get Involved​!​​​​​​​​​​​​​​