We Need Trees to Stay Cool But We Keep Losing Them

We wrote last week that trees and forests have an important role to play in fighting climate change and their importance was only underscored by the recent heatwave that much of the east coast experienced. Tree cover can cool cities by as much as 10°F but in the United States, we’ve been losing a significant number of trees over recent decades. CNN reported that “tree cover in US cities is shrinking. A study published last year by the US Forest Service found that we lost 36 million trees annually from urban and rural communities over a five-year period. That’s a 1% drop from 2009 to 2014.”

Business As Usual:  David Nowak, a senior US Forest Service scientist and co-author of the study explained that if we continue to lose trees, “cities will become warmer, more polluted and generally more unhealthy for inhabitants.” Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, insects, and disease are all leading to the decline of trees and while human activity contributes to these forces, humans must also be cognizant that our development isn’t needlessly clearing trees and killing saplings.
Doing Our Part: It’s important that we push our communities to plant more trees while also protecting the ones growing on our properties and in our neighborhoods. Don’t remove old trees if it’s not necessary, make sure you properly prune dead branches and also be on the lookout for disease and decay. Additionally, it’s important to remember that when developing your property to be mindful of tree roots which are often overlooked and get damaged.
Why This Matters:  As Karl Korfmacher, a professor of environmental science at the Rochester Institute of Technology explained, the closer we can get to having our cities look like natural ecosystems, the better off we’ll be in heatwaves. As climate change makes summer days hotter, we’re going to have to think beyond just air conditioning to keep people cool and will have to look to nature to find more lasting solutions. Trees already have some pretty amazing mechanisms for dealing with heat themselves (we’ve even mimicked them in how we build buildings) but one of the simplest ways we can make our cities more sustainable and cooler as a result is to plant more trees and ensure that we’re preserving existing forests.

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