Our urban forests are dying

Written by By Zipporah Blott, CNN London, United Kingdom

Two separate reports released this week reveal widespread environmental impact of urban trees. A study published by the US Forest Service reveals that 75 million trees are being lost to the country’s urban environment each year — 2 million a month — and one by University of Colorado director Dr. Richard Feehan finds that the UK urban landscape is burning at a rate similar to the arid Amazon basin.

The measures are alarmingly similar — and alarming to different peoples’ senses of morality and safety. They are the fruits of years of international research and debate, which has beguiled viewers of T.V. documentaries and have stunned planners and green campaigners.

A report from the Forest Service into how much the nation’s 46 million trees were lost between 2008 and 2012 focuses on the obvious: the threat to air quality, climate, water quality and fire risk. And the planning profession will have to find a way to deal with the post-apocalyptic number of tree deaths that spurred this report.

But the report is also clear-eyed about the damaging psychological consequences of killing so many trees. It notes that 94% of Americans were “highly disturbed” by people who cut down trees, compared to 89% in Europe and 79% in Asia.

“These cities are desperate for trees,” said David Enders, a sustainable forestry specialist in the US Forest Service in a statement. “Trees help us breathe, create urban habitat, provide visual beauty and reduce the risk of wildfires. After decades of neglect and disregard, many urban parks are dying under the pressure of suburban development and an inadequate landscape maintenance program.”

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