Looking Back: 2012’s “Top 10” Tree Stories

College Park, MD (December 24, 2012) – If there was trend this year, it’s that urban forests are quickly moving to center stage as climate change—including drought, unrelenting high temperatures, and mega storms—heats up.  New research this year also shows city trees are taking on crime and pollution. On the political front, ACTrees members and friends of trees across the U.S. were instrumental in helping to save the Urban & Community Forestry program from repeal. New tree planting standards were released, and during a busy election season, American’s united to plant over 45,000 trees in October. Here’s all “top 10.”

  1. Urban forests losing ground. The year started off with the Forest Service announcement in February that new research showed the “Nation’s Urban Forests Losing Ground.” About 4 million trees a year to be exact. This was followed up by a New York Times article authored by Jim Robbins laying out the reasons “Why Trees Matter,” most of those related to the role of trees to help mitigate many of the impacts of a changing climate.
  2. Trees reduce crime. Also early in the year new research across Baltimore City and Baltimore County found that with few exceptions, the frequency of crimes reported in a particular block or neighborhood goes down as the tree cover gets thicker. Just a 10 percent increase in leaf canopy was associated with a 12 percent drop in crime. Here’s the article,  and the research.
  3. U&CF saved from repeal. On the political front, ACTrees rallied its members and tree friends to help save the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program from repeal, which turned up as one of the hundreds of Farm Bill amendments filed in the Senate (here’s the story).  Fortunately, YOU spoke up and saved this vital program.
  4. Green infrastructure trending in cities. Rooftop gardens, specially designed wetlands, and the right trees in the right place also proved to help cities and regional governments reduce air and water pollution, save money, and adapt to a changing environment.  A trend in green infrastructure practices took off in the U.S. and globally as cities turned to greening and trees to battle pollution and save money.
  5. Standards bring consensus around tree planting. In July, the American National Standards Institute approved a major revision to ANSI A300 (part 6)-2012 which brought industry consensus around tree planting. The new standard provides guidelines on objectives, plant and site inspection, tools and equipment, digging the hole, installing woody plants, support systems, and post-planting care practices. With trees planted properly, they can live and thrive for years to come.
  6. Over half the country in drought. Later in July, nearly 54% of the country was in moderate drought or worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, setting a record for the fourth straight week, and putting the survival of millions of trees at stake. The unrelenting drought took a toll on nation’s urban trees and tree canopies and racked up economic impacts as well.
  7. Trees take center stage to help mitigate climate change. After a dry, hot summer, trees took center stage as a tool to mitigate urban heat islands and generally help cities adapt to a changing climate. A series of articles from across the globe featured cities that are using trees and greenery to help cool things down right now—and to plan for a future of warmer weather, more drought, and health concerns related to rising urban temperatures. Here’s the story.
  8. Yes, Virginia, it’s getting hotter. And it’s going to get a lot hotter. Mid-year, the City of Los Angeles announced findings from one of the most sophisticated regional climate studies ever produced, predicting temperatures for as far out as the years 2041 – 2060. The bottom line: it’s going to get hot. And cities need to get ready, including the cooling effect of increased tree canopies. Here’s more on the study and steps L.A. is starting to take.
  9. Superstorm Sandy starts everyone thinking about trees and resilient cities. And then came Superstorm Sandy.  During this terrible disaster about 10,000 trees fell in New York City, and New Jersey reported more than 113,000 destroyed or damaged trees. This got cities rethinking the role of tree maintenance and how to replant smarter for the future, including how trees are critical to building more resilient cities.
  10. Americans unite for trees. Finally, in the midst of a long and divisive election season, citizens united for trees. Over 23,000 volunteers took action for greener communities during October, planting 45,000 trees in more than 280 communities nationwide as part of National NeighborWoods™ Month, the annual campaign for trees and greener communities.