Declining urban and community tree cover in the United States
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Urban Forestry & Urban Greening
Paired aerial photographs were interpreted to assess recent changes (c. 2009–2014) in tree, impervious and other cover types within urban/community and urban land in all 50 United States and the District of Columbia. National results indicate that tree cover in urban/community areas of the United States is on the decline at a rate of about 175,000 acres per year, which corresponds to approximately 36 million trees per year. Estimated loss of benefits from trees in urban areas is conservatively valued at $96 million per year. Overall, for both urban and the broader urban/community areas, 23 states/districts had statistically significant declines in tree cover, 25 states had non-significant decreases or no change in tree cover, and three states showed a non-significant increase in tree cover. The most intensive change occurred within urban areas, with tree cover in these areas dropping one percent over the 5-year period, compared to a 0.7 percent drop in urban/community areas. States/ districts with the greatest statistically significant annual decline in percent urban tree cover were: Oklahoma (−0.92%/yr), District of Columbia (−0.44%/yr), Rhode Island (−0.40%/yr), Oregon (−0.38%/yr) and Georgia (−0.37%/yr). Coinciding with the loss of tree cover was a gain in impervious cover, with impervious cover increasing 0.6 percent in urban/community areas and 1.0 percent in urban areas over the 5-year period. Such changes in cover types affect the benefits derived from urban forests and consequently the health and wellbeing of urban residents.
KeywordsEcosystem services; Forest monitoring; Impervious surfaces; Tree cover change; Urban forests
Nowak, David J.; Greenfield, Eric J. 2018. Declining urban and community tree cover in the United States. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 32: 32-55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2018.03.006.