By Darryl Fears
Over several decades in the past century, city populations swelled as Americans moved away from rural forests. Now the forests are moving farther away from Americans.
A new study of satellite images taken over 10 years starting in 1990 shows the rural forest canopy disappearing. Forest space disappeared from the United States in such big chunks that the average distance from any point in the nation to a forest increased by 14 percent, about a third of a mile.
While that’s no big deal to a human driving a car with a pine-scented tree dangling from the rearview mirror, it is to a bird hoping to rest or find food on epic seasonal flights across the globe, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.
But forests aren’t just for the birds. They improve the quality of life for fauna and flora, from bears to flowers. Altering forests can change the dynamics of ecosystems and can potentially “affect water chemistry, soil erosion, carbon sequestration patterns, local climate, biodiversity distribution and human quality of life,” a statement announcing the report said.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Forestry Department and its partners published ‘National Socioeconomic Surveys in Forestry: Guidance and Survey Modules for Measuring the Multiple Roles of Forests in Household Welfare and Livelihoods’. The Sourcebook aims to fill the data gap on the contributions that forests and wild products make to livelihoods and well-being. The modules and guidance presented aim to build the capacity of national statistical offices to integrate forest values into national household surveys, in particular surveys based on the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS).
Planting trees is a cost-effective way to tackle urban air pollution, which is a growing problem for many cities.
A study by US-based The Nature Conservancy (TNC) reported than the average reduction of particulate matter near a tree was between 7% and 24%.
Particulate matter (PM) is microscopic particles that become trapped in the lungs of people breathing polluted air.
PM pollution could claim an estimated 6.2 million lives each year by 2050, the study suggests.
Lead author Rob McDonald said that city trees were already providing a lot of benefits to people living in urban areas.