With vast swaths of the western United States baking under an unprecedented heat wave, a new study has revealed just how unevenly trees are distributed across America’s cities and how much it hurts communities of color and the poor.
To address the balance, the United States needs to plant more than 30 million trees in major urban settings across the country, according to a major new report.
The first national tree count, known as Tree equity score, combines several metrics, including socioeconomic, population density, and existing tree cover. Their goal is to show which places have enough trees for optimal health and economic benefits.
The study examined 3,810 municipalities, including 150,000 neighborhoods and 486 cities with at least 50,000 residents across the country. It found that to establish tree equity, cities need to plant about 31.4 million trees, roughly a 10% increase from current tree cover.
Trees are especially lacking in neighborhoods where minorities live, and they are more prominent in wealthy, white neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with a majority of people of color have 33% less tree canopy on average than majority white communities. And neighborhoods with 90% or more of their residents living in poverty have 65% less tree canopy than communities with only 10% or less of the population in poverty.
Cities that will benefit the most from achieving tree equity include Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Fresno, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York, Oklahoma, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose.
“We need to make sure the trees go where the people are. Tree Equity Score is taking us in the right direction, and now it is up to all of us to go beyond the usual and take bold action, “said Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests, the nonprofit organization that commissioned the study. , it’s a statement.
“Tree Equity Score is leading us in the right direction, and now it is up to all of us to go beyond the usual and take bold action.”
Numerous studies show a clear relationship between urban forest and physical health: shade trees promote physical activity and mitigate the effects of heat on health, especially during heat waves.
Trees immediately cool the area around them through shade and perspiration, or the evaporation of moisture from the leaves, typically leaving the surrounding 100 feet about 3 ° F cooler than elsewhere. Trees also remove fine particles from the air, allowing residents to breathe better. American Forests research in Dallas showed that heat-related deaths could decrease by 22% with a combination of trees and reflective surfaces.
Urban forests are responsible for nearly a fifth of the country’s captured and stored carbon emissions, according to the report.
But the number of urban trees is shrinking due to storms, construction and insects: Right now, the US faces a projected 8.3% loss in urban tree cover by 2060.
Planting trees can also have financial benefits: The study authors write that 228,000 jobs would be created and nearly $ 1.6 billion saved a year on things like asthma-related emergency room visits that would be avoided with an air less contaminated.
Some cities have already invested in shadow equity: In Los Angeles, the mayor, Eric Garcetti, appointed a city forestry officer in 2019 to oversee the planting of 90,000 trees, focusing on neighborhoods that lack shade. Phoenix has also pledged tree equity by 2030.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism