Large trees bring a lot of benefits to cities. They offer shade and local cooling and help reduce stormwater runoff. So they can help urban areas adapt to climate change.
But when new buildings go up, those stately trees are often cut down.
Developers might plant new trees after construction is finished. But it can take decades for those saplings to grow to be as big and beneficial.
“You can’t make up for the loss of canopy by planting many small trees,” says Keith O’Herrin, an urban forester in Union County, North Carolina.
His research shows that local laws, often called tree preservation ordinances, can help protect trees from damage during construction.
These laws might require people to get a permit to cut down trees or limit how many trees can be cleared for new construction.
Some regulations also require fencing around each tree to prevent workers from digging or storing heavy equipment in places that could damage a tree’s roots.
“To protect the tree, we have to protect the root zone because that is the primary way that trees are indirectly killed during construction activity,” O’Herrin says.
He says these laws are not intended to limit development but to preserve trees and their many benefits.
Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman/ChavoBart Digital Media