The history of human existence and civilizations is intertwined with forests and trees. Forests are crucial for the goods and services they provide, upon which people all over the world depend. Strategies to enhance the contributions of the world’s forests to social development, livelihoods and poverty eradication are vital at a time when unsustainable practices and economic crises continue to threaten healthy forests and the people who depend upon them. Because of this, the UN International Day of Forests is celebrated each year on March 21. This global celebration of forests provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of woodlands and trees, and celebrate the ways in which they sustain and protect us. This year’s theme? Forests and Sustainable Cities.
Our urban forest is made up of an estimated 2,431,000 trees. The three most common species are American beech (15.9 percent), boxelder (6.1 percent), and tulip tree (4.6 percent).
Just check out what these 2 million trees can do:
Clean Air and Mitigate Climate Change: Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. Trees also intercept airborne pollutants common to cities. D.C.’s urban forest stores 649,000 tons of carbon which is equivalent to 2,381,830 tons of Carbon Dioxide every year. That’s equivalent to removing 506,772 vehicles from the road. If you were to line those vehicles up end to end they would stretch from Boston to Miami.
Absorb Stormwater: Trees absorb stormwater runoff, reducing erosion and pollution in our waterways. A healthy tree canopy means cleaner rivers and less investment in costly infrastructure. Each year DC’s trees filter 44,274,580 cubic feet of water. That’s equal to about 500 Olympic size swimming pools.
Save Energy: Trees provide shade, saving District residents and businesses a cool $3.5 million annually in energy costs.
Create Healthier and Safer Communities: Green spaces help residents combat stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s shown that tree-lined streets have a traffic calming effect, which keeps drivers and pedestrians safe. Also, exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue. Every year D.C.’s trees remove 870,000 pounds of pollutants from the air. And thank goodness for that because 15.5 percent of D.C. residents have asthma, which is above the national average of 13.5 percent.
Build Better Business: Trees attract businesses and tourists. People linger and shop longer at businesses that are surrounded by trees.
Support Wildlife: Trees provide food, homes, and shelter for many native and migratory animals.
Most of these stats came from the comprehensive and informative i-Tree Eco Report. We need your help to make D.C. a sustainable city with an impressive canopy. Consider attending an inventory so we can measure and identify trees. Come learn about non-native, invasive plants and how they are threatening our native landscapes – followed by a field session where you can put your new knowledge to the test! Become a member and support all our endeavors from plantings, inventories, classes, TreeWise youth program, watering, and more. Sign up to become a certified tree advocate and advocate for trees in development and planning projects throughout the city. Attend the Canopy Awards in April – a ticket gets you access to the biggest party in urban forestry while supporting Casey Trees.
Whatever you do, be sure to thank your urban forest on Wednesday – it works hard!