With the American west baking under a record-setting heatwave, a new study has revealed in the US how unevenly trees are spread throughout cities and how much it disadvantages the poor and communities of color. According to a major new report, to address the balance, the US needs to plant more than 30 million trees in major urban environments all over the country.
Tree Equity Score, the 1st ever nationwide tally of trees, combines several metrics, including existing tree cover, population density, socioeconomic. They aim to show which locations have enough trees for economic and health benefits. Across the country, the study examined 3,810 municipalities, 486 cities, and 150,000 neighborhoods with at least 50,000 residents. It was found out that to establish tree quality, cities need to plant about 31.4 million trees.
Trees are lagging, especially in the neighborhoods where minorities live, and more prominent in white, affluent areas. Neighborhoods, where most people of color live on average, have 33% less tree canopy than majority-white communities. And districts 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.
The cities that will benefit the most from achieving tree equity include Columbus, Fresno, Jacksonville, Memphis, New York City, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Jose, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Diego.
According to Jad Daley, president, and chief executive officer of American Forests, the non-profit which commissioned the study, in a statement, “We need to make sure the trees go where the people are. Tree Equity Score steers us in the right direction, and now it’s up to all of us to go beyond business as usual and take bold action. Tree Equity Score steers us in the right direction, and now it’s up to all of us to go beyond business as usual and take bold action.”
Many studies have shown a clear relationship between physical health and urban forest. Through shade and transpiration or the evaporation of moisture from leaves, trees cool the area immediately around them. They also remove fine particles from the air, letting residents breathe easier. According to the report, urban forests are responsible for almost one-fifth of the country’s stored carbon emissions. But today, the number of trees is shrinking.