Georgia Leads the Way in Urban Tree Loss

Georgia Leads the Way in Urban Tree Loss
By: Summer Price

We have just reached the summer months and it already seems to be heating up a lot. It may even seem hotter this year than usual and part of that could be due to the rapid loss of trees that Georgia is experiencing. According to a recent study released by the U.S. Forest Service, Georgia is losing more trees than any other state in the nation. It is losing an average of 18,000 acres of trees per year which is causing some major negative effects on Georgia’s climate.

Scientists David Nowak and Eric Greenfield conducted the study to document national tree patterns to determine how rapidly the trees are depleting. They concluded that Atlanta in particular is losing its trees at a rate of .37 percent. This unfortunately makes Atlanta the fifth fastest rate in the country. Nowak and Greenfield use Google Earth to document the difference through the years of how many trees come and go. Through doing this, it’s apparent that Georgia is losing its tree cover.

The consequences due to a loss of trees are both minor and major. Tree loss can be considered a small inconvenience but also have a major effect on climate change. Trees are a huge contributor to combating heat during the hotter months. This is especially true in urban areas. Cities tend to be around 1.8-5.4 degrees hotter than rural areas. The buildings and roads made of concrete and asphalt absorb high levels of energy from the sun. The sunlight absorbed by these materials radiates heat into the surrounding air causing warmer temperatures. The raising temperatures in cities can cause health problems such as respiratory difficulties, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and general discomfort.

Since the population of Atlanta is rapidly growing, trees are cut down to create more space for the newcomers. Other reasons for tree loss include fallen or diseased trees, drought and several reports of the southern pine beetle.

Residents living in urban areas benefit greatly from living in a greener space. Trees have a huge impact on mental and physical health due to increased time in natural environments. They help build a strong sense of community and attract more people to spend time outside in nature. Trees help residents feel a sense of well-being, fell safer and help reduce crime. It has even been shown through studies that children that play in forested urban areas tend to focus better in school and develop better social skills.

What can be done to keep this problem of tree loss from getting any worse? Arthur Morris of the Georgia Urban Forest Council has stated that he would like to work with local jurisdictions on tree conservation and believes that teaching people about the value of trees could go a long way. They have also released a five-year plan for how to keep Atlanta green. Scientist David Nowak from the study above has stated that the solution to urban deforestation can be as simple as planting more trees but it is ultimately up to the community to determine what it wants for the future, whether that’s to plant more trees or to expand construction.

Benefits of Trees

Recent study finds urban tree loss as national issue