Recently, the Sustainable Community Forestry Program (SCFP) staff was asked to select one project or one component of the program that would convey the importance of SCFP to Georgians and to Georgia’s natural resources. The choice was obvious. The following Tree Canopy and Impervious Surface Study, completed by Dr. Elizabeth Kramer at the University of Georgia Natural Resources Spatial Analysis Laboratory(NARSAL), has been widely used by communities across the state working to conserve their tree canopy and Georgia’s precious natural resources. Startling images and data confirm previous estimates of 50 acres of trees a day lost to development in metro Atlanta, all of which were replaced with impervious surfaces. And, similar trends continued across the state in Savannah, Columbus and other fast growing metropolitan areas. Here is an overview of the study:
In 2007, the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Sustainable Community Forestry Program (SCFP) funded a study of the impact of urban development on tree canopy cover between the years 1991-2005. The study was funded using federal funds in the amount of $106,600.
The bottom line shows Georgia gaining an average of 106 acres of impervious surface a day from parking lots, buildings, shopping centers and residential development. In metro Atlanta, which makes up more than one-half of the state’s impervious surface gain, for every one acre of tree canopy lost, one acre of impervious surface is gained. This change in land use is creating severe environmental impacts related to air quality and storm water management which in turn may create economic and quality of life issues.
The Savannah area also experienced tremendous growth pressures. Tree canopy decreased by 28% in Bryan, Chatham and Effingham Counties between 1991 and 2005, while impervious surface increased by 272%.
The Columbus area lost 8% of tree cover and gained in impervious surfaces by 71%.
Results from across the state area available on the NARSAL Web site.
Benefits of this SCFP Study to Georgia
- SCFP Foresters use this data and maps to provide technical expertise to the planning and development community on how to grow with trees as part of the infrastructure.
- The GFC urges cities and counties to use this baseline data to set goals that increase tree coverage and keep remaining trees healthy in communities and around the state.
- Through the SCFP, the GFC provides financial assistance and guidance that Georgia’s officials and the development community can use to make decisions on how to develop with trees as part of the infrastructure.
- This study provides a birds-eye view of land-use change for the entire state and can be used to help understand the environmental impacts of land-use decisions.
- The data allows planners and decision makers to evaluate tree cover and impervious surface trends in their community and prioritize areas of the greatest concern using a reliable and consistent methodology employed across city and county lines.
- The data can be used as a tool to identify areas where policy changes, new regulations and planning can mitigate the environmental impacts of land-cover changes.
- Associated economic value of tree cover can be determined for cities and counties such as the loss of dollars saved on air quality as trees are removed and impervious surfaces are gained.
- The data is also a critical component of Georgia’s State Forest Assessment and Resource Strategy.
Check it out!