Tree cover in American cities is shrinking, and it could be costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
A new U.S. Forest Service analysis of 20 U.S. cities, including Atlanta Ga. (above), pegs urban tree loss at about 4 million trees a year. That decrease translates into an astronomical annual loss in environmental services, such as reduced heating and cooling costs, when you consider that each tree represents as much as $2,500 in such services during a its lifetime (a return rate three times greater than tree care costs), the forest service says.
Urban tree-planting campaigns have made a difference, but not nearly enough to offset development. “Tree cover loss would be higher if not for the tree planting efforts cities have undertaken in the past several years,” David Nowak of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station said in a press release. “Reversing the trend may demand more widespread, comprehensive and integrated programs that focus on sustaining overall tree canopy.”