Written by Staff Writer
The square foot footprint of New York City is more than 13 football fields, or approximately 41 square miles. That’s big. But it’s even bigger when you look at the fact that New York’s trees are being taken out faster than just about any other city in the US. In fact, the number of tree losses in the United States is quadruple the rate of the average developed nation, according to a report published Thursday by the American Society of Landscape Architects
On average, US cities are losing 37.5 million trees per year. The highest figure is Los Angeles, which has lost over 108 million trees since 1950, while New York has lost over 79 million. Washington, D.C., has lost 58 million trees over the same period, the report notes.
So how is it that the United States has the largest tree loss problem in the world, with tree populations dropping four times faster than the rest of the developed world?
“It is harder to understand why urban areas are losing trees, but for one answer, it is important to understand that timber is big business in the US,” the report says.
Urban forests can help contain our carbon footprint by absorbing excess CO2 emissions. Urban forests can help contain our carbon footprint by absorbing excess CO2 emissions.
“Long gone are the days when we would buy furniture, lights and housewares from shops in New York City or Chicago, or purchase local produce at one of the farmers markets, or order books and text books from specialty bookstores in the Midwest or Northeast. Today, over 90% of goods we purchase in the US originate from outside the country.”
Producing trees, wood and steel from trees, timber, and steel, also generates revenue for communities across the country.
The report details research that suggests that raising urban forest cover can reduce people’s emissions of harmful airborne particles that contribute to smog.
Urban forests are also some of the most diverse ecosystems around and can filter the carbon dioxide that we put into the atmosphere.
When the ratio of tree to total plant cover drops, soil could begin to recover, according to experts.
However, in a pinch, poor-quality wood can sometimes cause damage. The report notes that degraded tree can cause “extensive tree damage such as fractures, splitting, browning or canopy dieback” and ultimately lead to a decline in values and perceived quality.
So where does one start to add trees to urban landscapes?
“To start, we should work with clients who are willing to integrate the active growing of trees into their buildings,” the report states. “Conventional buildings often lack the appropriate plant and soil care needed for trees to grow well.”
Planting trees is not the only way to extend the lifespan of a city’s urban forest. Trees that are particularly well-suited to areas with poor soil and fragile plants, can also be planted. These include Boston’s Windsor House, a 600-year-old Victorian mansion, which currently retains one-third of its own past, using trees from Boston’s surrounding forests to keep its tree canopy intact.