The Impact Of Trees
Trees are vital to a healthy environment and provide services that improve air quality, water quality, wildlife habitat, stream buffers, cost of living and our quality of life. Among other services, our trees produce oxygen; remove pollutants from the air and from water runoff; reduce the production of harmful ground level ozone; reduce global warming; anchor our soil and stabilize our stream banks; shade and cool our homes, businesses and natural areas; increase our property values; reduce flooding and stream scouring; and increase the amount of water in our lakes and streams in times of drought.
Notwithstanding the value and importance of trees, we have lost trees and open space at a dramatic rate. According to the 2008 tree canopy study of Mecklenburg County completed by American Forests, Inc., between 1985 and 2008 we lost 33% of tree canopy, 2.8% of our open space, and increased our urban/impervious area (roads, parking lots, buildings) by 60%. Lost air quality benefits resulting from this land cover change is $8,739,909.00 annually. Increased costs to manage stormwater resulting from this change is $50,093,674.00.
The latest study reveals more good news for programs like Creek ReLeaf. Of the land areas along our streams and within stream buffers, which total 29,551 acres, 73% are categorized as tree canopy and 22% are categorized as possible tree canopy with only 4% of possible areas being impervious. This means ample opportunities exist to stabilize stream banks and protect water quality by increasing the amount of tree canopy in these environmentally important zones.
Based on the foregoing and the fact that more growth and development is on the way it is very clear that we must both save and plant more trees to reduce the negative impacts of growth, which is the mission of the Charlotte Public Tree Fund.
Our Solution – implement the following programs with support from our volunteers, members and donors (see details under Programs):
- Creek Releaf® Program – Reforestation of stream side buffers and adjacent areas to preserve stream health and water quality.
- Trees for Change Program – Deliver education program in schools to grades K thru 12 about the value of trees and implement programs involving students that result in tree plantings at the schools or elsewhere within Mecklenburg.