Urban Forests seem like a contradiction in term. In our minds urban settlements and forests stand far apart at the opposite end of a spectrum. So how can they be brought together in support of each other? Apparently, as cities grow hotter and spew more carbon into the atmosphere the more trees a city needs, a forest full of them.
Urban centers and large cities are some of the major contributors of the carbon emissions in the world. According to Plan NYC, “Urban areas are estimated to be the source of approximately 80% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” In our struggle to battle global warming, trees are the best allies we can have.
Forests in an urban environment are consisted of shaded open spaces along creeks and river beds, official Park land and street trees. Most cities have plans to protect their park land and increase the number of new trees planted. Often in this endeavor cities have formed partnerships with private groups, such as New York City’s ambitious effort to plant One Million Trees by the end of 2017.
It is now recognized that urban park land and street trees not only beautify city scape but offer long-term solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. Trees also improve quality of soil, reduce erosion, and decrease the use of air conditioning in the summer. Furthermore it has been shown that trees are beneficial to the health of the city dwellers and increase property values.
- Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen we breathe.
- Trees intercept rainfall and prevent storm water runoff and flooding.
- Trees reduce urban heat island effect and reduce energy demand by providing shade to homes, businesses, roads and parking lots, thus reducing the cost of air conditioning in the summer.
- Trees provide bird and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, improve soil quality and reduce erosion, add to your home’s property value.
- Trees can help to mitigate climate change two ways: through direct carbon uptake and sequestration and by reducing the amount of carbon and other greenhouse gases emitted.
American Forests announced 10 best cities for Urban Forests, and they are
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 36.58 (Population of the Austin 790,390)
Percentage of Land as Park = 17.96 % (28,911 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 14,925 (Street Trees = 6,465 – Park Trees = 8,460)
Austin has the largest amount of open space per 1000 people in the nation, almost 40 acres per one thousand people, with 18 percent of the city devoted to park land.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 25.53 (Population of the Milwaukee 594,833)
Percentage of Land as Park = 9.80 % (15,189 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 3,377,000
Milwaukee has 25 acres of park per 1,000 residents. Its urban forest provides $15 million in storm water savings and removes 496 tons of pollution annually — a value estimated at $2.59 million.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 25.36 (Population of the Charlotte 731,424)
Percentage of Land as Park = 5.50 % (18,551 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 85,146
It’s estimated that Charlotte’s trees provide more than $900,000 in energy savings annually and $2.1 million in storm water controls.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 23.75 (Population of the Portland 583,776)
Percentage of Land as Park = 16.13 % (13,864 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 1.4 million
The city’s street and park trees cost around $6.5 million per year to maintain, but provide $27 million dollars in benefits, which is $3.80 return on every dollar.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 13.39 (Population of the Minneapolis 382,578)
Percentage of Land as Park = 14.58 % (5,121 acres of park land)
Total Trees = 979,000
Iit’s estimated that the city’s urban forest has a structural value of $756 million and also reduces energy use by $216,000 per year. The trees remove 384 tons of pollution annually, valued at $1.9 million. This reduction in energy usage reduces carbon emissions at an estimated value of $16,000.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 10.87 (Population of the Sacramento 466,488)
Percentage of Land as Park = 8.15 % (5,069 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 115,000
It is estimated that Sacramento’s tree canopy remove 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, and reduce air pollution by as much as 50 percent. Furthermore, it adds $11.9 million in property values.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 9.83 (Population of the Denver 600,158)
Percentage of Land as Park = 6.01 % (5,902 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 2.2 million
Denver estimates that $18 million in net income related to tourism can be attributed to its park system, which has increased health benefits, lowered medical costs and improved physical activity to the tune of $65 million.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 9.00 (Population of the Seattle 608,660)
Percentage of Land as Park = 10.20 % (5,476 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 4.35 million
Seattle trees store 2 million metric tons of carbon, removes 725 metric tons of pollution from the environment annually, and reduce building energy use by $5-9 million annually.
Park Acres per 1,000 People =4.66 (Population of New York 8,175,133)
Percentage of Land as Park = 19.51 % (38,060 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 5.2 million
Currently, New York’s urban forest stores 1.35 million tons of carbon at a value of $24.9 million and removes more than 2,000 tons of pollution each year for $10.6 million in value. While these figures are impressive, it’s estimated that the New York’s urban forest has a structural value of $5.2 billion.
Park Acres per 1,000 People = 12.40 (Population of the Washington D.C. 601,723 )
Percentage of Land as Park = 18.99 % (7,464 acres of park land)
Total number of Trees = 1,928,000
D.C.’s trees remove 540 tons of pollution each year, valued at $2.5 million. The trees reduce building energy usage $2.6 million each year, which results in reduce carbon emissions valued at $96,000 per year. Washington D.C.’s urban forests add $3.6 billion in structural value to the city.