Tennessee’s Urban Forests Valued in the Billions

Overton Park | Memphis, Tennessee | Image Credit: Flickr User: duluoz-cats

Tennessee’s urban forests, currently valued at about $80 billion, also provide almost $650 million in benefits such as carbon storage, pollution removal, and energy reduction according to a new U.S. Forest Service report.

The authors of Urban Forests of Tennessee, 2009 (published in early 2012) found there are 284 million trees in urban areas in the state, with canopies covering 33.7 percent of 1.6 million acres of urban area. Those urban forests provide an estimated $204 million per year in pollution removal and $66 million per year in energy savings. The study is the first of its kind in Tennessee.

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USA urban forests losing ground

Albuquerque Aerial 2006 (Flickr User kla4067)

National results indicate that tree cover in urban areas of the United States is declining at a rate of about 4 million trees per year, according to a U.S. Forest Service study published recently in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

Tree cover in 17 of the 20 cities analyzed in the study declined while 16 cities saw increases in impervious cover, which includes pavement and rooftops. Land that lost trees was for the most part converted to either grass or ground cover, impervious cover or bare soil.

Of the 20 cities analyzed, the greatest percentage of annual loss in tree cover occurred in New Orleans, Houston and Albuquerque. Researchers expected to find a dramatic loss of trees in New Orleans and said that it is most likely due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tree cover ranged from a high of 53.9 percent in Atlanta to a low of 9.6 percent in Denver while total impervious cover varied from 61.1 percent in New York City to 17.7 percent in Nashville. Cities with the greatest annual increase in impervious cover were Los Angeles, Houston and Albuquerque.

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