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NYC Trees Creating Millions of Dollars in Benefits Annually for City Residents

Trees line Columbus Avenue in New York City.  (Creative Commons photo via pixabay.com) Newtown Square, PA, December 13, 2018 - New York City’s urban forest produces cleaner air, lower energy costs, reduced ultraviolet radiation and less storm water in the city’s sewer system with an annual value of more than $100 million, according to a new report by researchers with the USDA Forest Service, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and partners.

The report, “The Urban Forest of New York City,” summarizes the results of an urban forest inventory and provides baseline data that NYC Parks can use to monitor changes in the urban forest over time. The report also provides information on the spatial distribution of urban tree benefits and examines how these benefits vary across the city’s five boroughs and 71 community districts. Resource Bulletin NRS-117 is available from the Northern Research Station at: https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/57234

Lead author Dave Nowak, a scientist with the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, worked with the New York City Urban Field Station to analyze a sample of the city’s nearly 7 million trees and quantify the value of services provided by these trees. The New York City Urban Field Station is a collaboration of the USDA Forest Service, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and Natural Areas Conservancy.

“It’s hard to manage something when you do not know how much of it you have and where it is located,” Nowak said. “This study provides NYC Parks and city leaders with information relevant to the sustainable and equitable management of New York City’s urban forest.”

Existing tree cover in New York City is estimated at 21 percent, but tree cover is not evenly distributed across the entire city. Among the boroughs, Staten Island has the highest tree cover, estimated at 30 percent, followed by the Bronx (23 percent tree cover), Manhattan (20 percent), Queens (18 percent), and Brooklyn (16 percent).

The overall tree density in New York City is 35.9 trees per acre. The highest density of trees occurs in Staten Island (67.9 trees/acre), followed by the Bronx (48.4 trees/acre) and Brooklyn (27.0 trees/acre). Staten Island makes up 19.1 percent of the city land area and contains the most trees (36.2 percent of tree population), followed by Queens, which accounts for 36 percent of the land area and 25 percent of the trees.

Tree density and the location of tree density matter because trees act as a vital part of urban infrastructure. Trees in New York City currently store about 1.2 million tons of carbon (4.2 million tons carbon dioxide) valued at $153 million. Trees remove about 51,000 tons of carbon per year (186,000 tons carbon dioxide/year) ($6.8 million per year) and about 1,100 tons of air pollution per year ($78 million per year). New York City’s urban forest is estimated to reduce annual residential energy costs by $17.1 million per year and reduce runoff by 69 million cubic feet/year ($4.6 million/year).

The Forest Service established and measured permanent research plots in 2013 to analyze New York City’s urban forest using i-Tree (www.itreetools.org), a free suite of tools developed by the Forest Service and partners that is used worldwide to model the benefits of trees.

Jennifer Greenfeld, Assistant Commissioner of NYC Parks’s Division of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources adds: “We’re thankful for our longstanding partnership with the USDA Forest Service, which has helped us characterize the city’s urban forest and the benefits it provides.”

Co-authors include colleagues from the Northern Research Station, Davey’s Tree’s Davey Institute, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse.

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The mission of the Northern Research Station is to improve people's lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

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The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains world-renowned forestry research and wildland fire management organizations. National forests and grasslands contribute more than $30 billion to the American economy annually and support nearly 360,000 jobs. These lands also provide 30 percent of the nation's surface drinking water to cities and rural communities; approximately 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).


Last modified: December 13, 2018