The value of urban forests |

The value of urban forests

JoAnne Skelly
For the Appeal

I recently read an article, “Save the Shade,” by Charles Lockwood in a flight magazine. The earth’s urban and the native forests across the globe are in decline.

Our urban forests are the trees in our yards, along our streets, and in parks. Lockwood pointed out as an example of their decline, the destruction of a 90-year-old canopy along a busy Houston street that left stumps and sun beating down on a formerly shady neighborhood. American Forests, a nonprofit group, recommends a 40 percent tree cover, but found that San Diego has only a 13-percent tree cover.

Another example of our declining urban forests is the cutting of Atlanta’s trees, which raised temperatures almost 8 degrees above that of surrounding tree-covered areas. American Forests reports, “448 largest urban areas in the U.S. lost more than 3.5 billion trees in just the past 10 years.” This is happening all over the world, as shown by satellite maps. Why is this rapid decline important?

Urban trees definitely beautify our cities and homes, but environmentally, they also have many benefits. They clean the air of pollutants such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. According to Lockwood, “Just 100 trees remove five tons of carbon dioxide from the air a year, and about 1,000 pounds of pollutants.” Trees lower temperatures and reduce energy consumption, significantly reducing energy costs.

The USDA Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research found that adding large numbers of trees in California could greatly reduce the need to build more power plants. Trees capture water and reduce storm water runoff and damage. In San Antonio, the city plans to increase the tree canopy from 27 percent to 35 percent to avoid building a $200 million storm water facility.

Besides adding beauty, creating a sense of place, and benefiting the environment, trees also improve people’s health, both physically and mentally. When we can see trees from our offices, we are more productive and feel better, resulting in us taking fewer sick days. According to a study by Texas A & M University, patients recuperate more quickly, with fewer complications and less medication, if they can see trees from their beds.

Carson City and Gardnerville are members of “Tree City USA.” This means they have a tree board, a tree-care ordinance, and a community forestry program that gets trees planted. The other six Nevada members are Henderson, Incline Village, Las Vegas, Nellis Air Force Base, Reno and Sparks.

Trees are important to us locally and globally. Plant trees that will thrive here and take care of them. In Carson City, participate in the Street Tree Beautification program, where you buy a tree from the city’s approved list and the city plants it for you. Call 887-2363, ext. 1003, for information.

Contact me, 887-2252 or, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office for more gardening information. Check out many useful horticulture publications at “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City / Storey County Extension Educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.