Researchers show US trees dying faster than greenhouses

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The rate of tree loss is affecting more than one-third of the country As the nation prepares to celebrate Arbor Day on 29 May, researchers have shown how…

Researchers show US trees dying faster than greenhouses

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The rate of tree loss is affecting more than one-third of the country

As the nation prepares to celebrate Arbor Day on 29 May, researchers have shown how the loss of trees could affect our ability to maintain fresh water supplies and combat climate change.

There are 63.5 million to 82.5 million dead trees in the US and 36 million to 52 million are dying each year, says the Columbia University study.

This adds up to 42% of the total tree canopy in the US, and is affecting more than one-third of the country.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature, say that to keep forests healthy cities must plant more trees.

They say that climate change and urban sprawl means that trees are fast disappearing from much of the US.

As air pollution and heat waves become more common, more trees are eaten by insects and die, taking plant nutrients with them.

‘America’s theme park’

According to the study, covering 3,640 sq km (1,451 sq miles) of forest in 14 states, this year’s loss was about 18% higher than 2016, when the number of trees that died or were dying was 15% higher.

The study says that while the overall numbers are relatively small, they add up to more than the total number of trees that died or were dying in the UK after the 1967 woodland fire in Essex.

And it is about 5% more than the number of trees that died each year between 1970 and 2003 in Canada’s northern cities such as Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption There are 63.5 million to 82.5 million dead trees in the US

The figures also show that the rate of tree loss in areas where there is more residential and commercial development is increasing, while tree mortality is dropping in areas where there is still more wild and wildlife.

As well as being a means of removing carbon from the atmosphere, trees are important for clean drinking water and they absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

As the forest canopy shrinks, there is less area to absorb greenhouse gases from the air.

The study’s leader, Professor James Kenna, said that the removal of trees which could be eating them is the most pressing priority and that one solution is to introduce more native species, such as trees planted on top of so-called hardwood stumps.

“If we can get rid of the species that are predating on the trees, we can actually start treating the trees as a protected species. So they don’t need to be cut down or get overstocked by domestic agriculture,” Professor Kenna explained.

His team calculates that this could help to reduce mortality by around 30% in areas that provide water for millions of people.

“This is our natural theme park. It’s stunning. We can’t afford to lose it, even though we don’t always have enough resources to restore it,” he said.

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