Experts say that a loss of such a widespread area would impact on urban food security, clean air, climate stability and access to outdoor space for everyone
A report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Thursday estimated that up to 36 million American trees were lost to wildfires and clear-cutting between 2000 and 2013, translating into $7bn in losses to the US economy.
The highest number of trees lost was found in California, where fires have destroyed nearly one-third of the state’s forested area, or 600,000 acres.
But in many other cities, including New York, Boston, Portland, San Francisco and Washington DC, around 18% of the trees have been cut.
“Tree loss is a huge contributor to wildfire,” said WFA senior scientist Bill Watkins. “Land that’s better forested during the winter keeps cooler during hot summers.”
The report estimates that each tree losing its fight to survive leads to the destruction of up to an acre of forest, so cutting more than 100 trees to make way for housing developments, overhills or construction projects can result in more than 500 acres of trees lost.
This loss, according to the report, would have a “significant impact on urban food security, clean air, climate stability and access to outdoor space for everyone.”
Watkins added that losses of that size would have very significant consequences across the board.
“When you see trees that are gone, whether it’s in a community park or a forest buffer, it’s a real loss,” he said. “The report shows the importance of trees to protecting our communities.”