Researchers from the University of California's Spatial Sciences Institute say that preventing the removal of trees and other greenery to pave the way for bigger homes and nicer driveways would likely go a lot further than planting trees alone. Using aerial images, the scientists have discovered that the rate of what they call "de-greening" has reached a high of 55 percent in some areas of the Los Angeles region -- meaning over half of the trees and other plant life in some neighborhoods are long gone.
Ironically, a notable amount of these green space losses occurred while the city was in the midst of launching its 2007 "Million Trees" campaign to increase tree planting. Clearly, the planting effort couldn't keep up with the rate of deforestation in such an urbanized area. [Read more stories about environmental concerns at Environ.news]
The Baldwin Park area reportedly led the L.A. Basin in terms of de-greening, boasting a 55 percent decline in green spaces during the 10-year period. Sources say, "Other areas in the study that had at least 20 percent loss in cover included Pomona, Downey, Sylmar, Compton, and San Pedro/Port of Los Angeles."
To conduct their research, the team from U.C.'s Spatial Sciences Institute used digitized high-resolution aerial images, which were graciously provided by the Los Angeles Region-Imagery Acquisition Consortium. After classifying what was observed in the images into six different categories of land cover, the team compared changes in the images from different points in time. Images from 2000 and 2009 were used for comparison purposes.
While not every area has had a rate of greenery destruction as high as Baldwin Park, it is clearly a growing problem in California. USC Dornsife and USC School of Architecture assistant professor, Travis Longcore, commented, "We are losing tree shade across economic areas. Wealthy areas might generally have more trees to start with, but all single-family areas are losing across the board."
Urban forests have suffered, according to Longcore, due to the increasing size of single-family homes and the desire to have more paved and developed surfaces. Sidewalks, pools and other accouterments also play a role in the chopping down of valuable trees and other greenery.
In addition to the woes of the Los Angeles area, the entire state of California has been losing trees at a record pace. In late 2016, it was reported that approximately 62 million trees had died in the Golden State in just one year. Trees residing on federal, state and private land were all part of this devastating loss. And when compared to 2015's loss of 29 million, it's clear that 2016 was a frighteningly bad year for trees in California; the tree death rate increased by 114 percent.
Cameron Barrows, an assistant research ecologist who is coordinating the U.C. Riverside Center for Conservation Biology’s Desert Studies Initiative, commented,"This is pretty shocking. This is something we should really be concerned about."