The Urban Forest is an Environmental Tool

Trees aren’t the first things you think of when you think about New Mexico, but Albuquerque’s urban forest is a important environmental tool.

Nick Kuhn, city forester, was one of the speakers at the New Mexico Xeriscape and Water Conservation Conference in Albuquerque last month. I guess it never occurred to me that cities in the southwest would need foresters, but by the time Nick finished his talk, I was a believer.

Nick explained that even the southwest needs an urban forest and street trees are valuable “solar-powered environmental tools.” Each tree is a natural resource for economic, social and environmental benefits.

However, in the city of Albuquerque many residents have stopped thinking of trees as an important part of the ecosystem equation. With water at a premium, and a big push to conserve it, many think that a treeless yard saves water. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Nick embarked on a massive effort to prove that every tree in the city has value and conducted an Urban Ecosystem Analysis.

He said that Albuquerque has over 6,600 acres of total tree canopy. These trees remove air pollution, store and sequester carbon and help control storm water.

However, if the city could increase its tree canopy by only 10 percent it could control over 1.6 million more gallons of water, resulting in significant savings on storm water control.

One idea is to plan ahead, plant the right tree in the right place, make cuts in the curbs and use rainwater to irrigate the trees. This saves by reducing storm water control costs, reduces the need to irrigate the trees and adds to the city’s tree canopy.

By learning to use the rainwater and land more efficiently, trees can be used to reduce the heat island, sequester carbon and reduce, clean and filter stormwater.

Added benefits are increased property values, increased retail business along shady streets and improved pedestrian safety. And of course, a more beautiful environment.

Interested in finding out the value of the trees in your yard? Check out the National Tree Benefits Calculator, a collaborative project of Casey Trees and Davey Tree Experts.


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