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Urban forests are losing millions of trees a year

Urban forests are simply a collection of trees that grow within a city, town or suburb and the statistics surrounding their decline are startling to say the least.

According to a recent study entitled Declining urban and community tree cover in the United States, which was first published in the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, we lost 36 million trees in urban and rural communities over a five-year span of time (from 2009-2014).

That translates to approximately 175,000 acres of tree cover annually with some twenty-three states showing a significant decrease in tree cover and forty-five states showing a measurable decline overall.

The reality of these findings is staggering, especially when you take into account that the annual benefits resulting from such tree cover (removal of pollution and carbon from the air, heat reduction, lowering energy usage and power plant emissions) has been valued at almost $18 billion.

“Urban forests are an important resource,” said David Nowak of the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and co-author of the study. “Urban foresters, planners and decision-makers need to understand trends in urban forests so they can develop and maintain sufficient levels of tree cover — and the accompanying forest benefits — for current and future generations of citizens.”

As the severity of this reality is brought to the forefront, you may be wondering what are the scientific reasons for this decline in our urban forests?

From a scientific standpoint, the loss has been heavily impacted by environmental issues like climate change.

Periods of sustained drought and warmer temperatures causes excessive stress on trees – weakening its overall health and making it much more susceptible to insects and diseases they can no longer ward off in their weekend state. An increase in destructive hurricanes, tornadoes and wild fires (a result of sustained drought conditions) further threatens the livelihood of our urban forests.

From a social standpoint, we need to make more sensible choices when it comes to urban development.

“We see the tree cover being swapped out for impervious cover, which means when we look at the photographs, what was there is now replaced with a parking lot or a building,” Nowak said. “Every time we put a road down, we put a building and we cut a tree or add a tree, it not only affects that site, it affects the region.”

It’s time for us to “change the eyes which see reality”. To become responsible stewards of not only the trees on our property, but those in our communities and around the nation.

What can you do?

Inspect and protect your existing trees (pruning, irrigation, disease and insect management) and do your part to plant new trees whenever and wherever possible. If properly placed on your property, they’ll provide shade to help lower your energy bills and cool off your yard, while helping with flood and noise control.

Don’t remove a healthy tree if it’s not necessary says Nowak. “It takes a long time for these big trees to get big: 50 to 100 years. And once they’re established, they can live a long time. But taking a big tree out and saying ‘we’ll replant,’ there’s no guarantee small trees will make it, and it will take a very long time to grow.”

Nowak goes on to say that if we all get involved, we can help manage tree canopies in cities across the nation to help, “affect the air, to affect the water, to affect our well-being”.

Are you doing your part?

For more information on caring for your trees, contact SavATree today.