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Cities can’t see the ‘urban forest’ for the trees

(Nir Levy/

Urban forests cleanse the air, shade streets and absorb stormwater runoff. Yet many cities neglect or bulldoze them to accommodate sprawl.

David Maxwell Braun writes for the National Geographic Society that a new book by Jill Jonnes explores how cities can live in harmony with trees.

Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape emphasizes that trees are critical to urban environments, the article says. They reduce energy costs with their canopies and mitigate floods by soaking up rains. They also absorb pollutants from factories and vehicles that are literally choking Delhi, Beijing and other cities.  

Jonnes tells Braun in an interview that municipalities committed to restoration and conservation should begin with a “mapped inventory.” Arborists collect data on the number of trees in a city, where they are located and canopy size. Those stats indicate which neighborhoods, often poor areas, have a dearth of greenery. Initiated by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City used i-Tree software to guide its MillionTreesNYC initiative, the article says. Melbourne, Australia, has a similar registry, through which citizens can send a tree an email — and get an email back (written by city staff.)

National Geographic

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