Tree Report Throws Shade on Inequity in US Cities

American Forests study highlights socioeconomic disparity in tree cover
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2021 3:38 PM CDT
Tree Report Throws Shade on Inequity in US Cities
This May 16, 2021, photo shows people in Central Park in New York.   (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

Throwing a little shade has its place. Turns out, cities are losing their shady spots, and the change is mainly affecting communities where people of color live. Neighborhoods that are majority minority have about a third less tree canopy, and neighborhoods that are mostly populated with households living below the poverty line have 41% less cover. These findings come from American Forest's Tree Equity Score report, a first-ever tally of America's trees, the Guardian reports. The conservation nonprofit used data from a 2020 tree map and the US Census to note which communities had the best tree cover, the Hill reports. The solution? Plant more trees, and plant them where they’re needed.

The report estimated 31.4 million should go to America's cities, which would work out to about a 10% increase. "We need to make sure the trees go where the people are," American Forests CEO Jad Daley said. The report also notes which cities need trees the most—Chicago came in number one on the list. The news is timely. Portland, Ore., also on the list, is enduring a grueling heat wave, and tree cover keeps temperatures cooler, with American Forests stating that urban heat islands are 5 to 7 degrees warmer during the day on average; at night the delta can be as much as 22 degrees. Adding trees to urban heat islands can mitigate heat waves in the short term and help in the long term by absorbing carbon dioxide, per Scientific American. (More trees stories.)

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