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Raven Loves Trees! ;o)
Urban Forests – Trees Working Where People Do
Trees are the oldest and largest living things on the earth, and they are a good measure of the health and quality of our environment. Trees are the original multi-taskers. Trees provide social, ecological, and economic benefits. Their beauty inspires writers and artists, while their leaves and roots clean the air we breathe and the water we drink.
As our cities expand and our population moves to increasingly urbanized areas, American Forests recognizes the ecological value of urban trees as an important conservation issue. Though it is inherently understood that trees improve our environment, until recently it was difficult to quantify these effects. American Forests has synthesized decades of proven research with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing technologies to accurately measure the value of urban trees.
American Forests has conducted Urban Ecosystem Analyses in nearly 20 cities around the country documenting the loss of tree cover in our cities. These analyses report the value of trees not only in terms of their ecological benefits, but also in a language that decision makers understand—dollars. The Metropolitan Washington DC campaign provides a detailed report, press release, and slide show as an example of what a community can do to share the analysis findings with city leaders and the public.
Trees are indicators of a community’s ecological health. While urban ecology is more complex than just tree cover, trees are good indicators of the health of an urban ecosystem. When trees are large and healthy, the ecological systems—soil, air and water—that support them are also healthy. In turn, healthy trees provide valuable environmental benefits. The greater the tree cover and the less the impervious surface, the more ecosystem services are produced in terms of reducing stormwater runoff, increasing air and water quality, storing and sequestering atmospheric carbon and reducing energy consumption due to direct shading of residential buildings.
Air Quality Improvement
Our studies clearly show that trees in many urban areas have not received the attention they need and deserve. As a result, they have been disappearing at alarming rates (see the National Urban Tree Deficit). Many cities have seen a decline in natural tree cover by as much as 30% over the last several decadces.
American Forests has also developed the tools that local communities need to analyze and understand their own areas. CITYgreen software is a desktop GIS program that calculates the value of trees in urban environments. With the tools that American Forests has built, you can understand your local ecology and communicate to decision makers the value of trees to your city. See how other communities have used CITYgreen software successfully (see Success Stories).
CITYgreen has taken a very important role in education of our children. Teachers that have used CITYgreen in their classrooms find that the activities are student centered; inter disciplinary; and provide real world benefits to the local communities. See CITYgreen@school for more tools and information.
American Forests organizes the National Urban Forest Conference every two years, bringing together a broad range of people interested in improving the urban environment. This includes city planners, engineers, foresters, legislators and many others.