Environment | Forestry | Ecotrope

Forest Service: City Trees Are Good For Carbon Storage, Too

Ecotrope | May 7, 2013 12:09 p.m. | Updated: May 7, 2013 2:46 p.m.

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Forests soak up a lot of carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to climate change. But a new study by the U.S. Forest Service shows cities can store carbon too, as long as they maintain their urban tree canopy.

Researchers tallied 708 million tons of carbon stored in urban trees across the U.S., and they put a value on that storage too: $50 billion in environmental services including reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

That’s a pittance compared with the 22.3 billion tons of carbon the Forest Service estimates are stored in forestlands across the country. Urban forests make up just 3.2 percent of the carbon storage from forests nationwide, the study found. But Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said that’s still quite valuable.

“With expanding urbanization, city trees and forests are becoming increasingly important to sustain the health and well-being of our environment and our communities,” he said. “Carbon storage is just one of the many benefits provided by the hardest working trees in America.”

In a news release today, Tidwell said he’s hoping the study of carbon storage in urban forests will help people look at their neighborhood trees differently.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, found carbon storage in urban areas could increase in the future as cities expand. But it notes a study last year that found tree cover overall is declining by 4 million trees per year.

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