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It destroys ash, a tree commonly planted in urban areas because of its good leaf cover and hardy nature. More than one in 10 trees in Jefferson County, where Louisville is located, are ash.

  • Sandy was “a big wake-up call to us to make sure that we’re considering planting trees that are going to be climate-adapted,” New York’s Navé Strauss told me.
  • Kristen King, a colleague of Strauss’s, is the city’s director of natural-areas restoration and management, in charge of planting and maintaining New York’s parkland, which has about 2 million trees.
  • “Big red flag, big red flag,” says Cindi Sullivan, a horticulturalist who used to work for the city and is now the executive director of TreesLouisville, a group that funds tree planting across the city.
  • King and Strauss know that climate change means more superstorms like Sandy.
  • They’re easing back on planting trees that won’t thrive in the hotter, wilder weather to come, such as sugar maple (“they need that cold,” Strauss says) and northern red oak.
  • Trees are, in effect, lo-fi geoengineering on an urban scale.

In the past century, the United States has heated up as much as 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit. The natural cycle of cities is already being pushed in new directions; in New York, spring now begins a week earlier than in the 1950s. Current predictions suggest that the temperature in the city will rise by up to 6 degrees by the 2050s, and up to 10 degrees by the 2080s. This hotter climate will bring longer periods of drought too.

In 1784, William Hamilton, a wealthy botanical collector in Philadelphia, brought ginkgo trees back to the United States to plant on his property. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright loved them, and partly because of Wright’s influence, the ginkgo spread into cities across the country. It’s still an extremely hardy tree; two of those Hamilton originally planted were alive two centuries later.

This means working with private citizens, because in Jefferson County, most of the trees aren’t on public land such as streets or parks. Fully 70 percent grow on private property, rooted in people’s yards. Rebuilding the canopy thus means making it as easy as possible for everyday citizens to plant a new tree; among other things, Sullivan’s group raises money to subsidize all this planting. It connects residents with software from the Arbor Day Foundation that lets a Louisville resident find the best place on their property to plant a tree that’ll provide maximum shade and energy savings. After an assessment of its urban forest in 2015, the local government discovered that the city was losing its canopy at a startling rate of 54,000 trees a year. The reasons for the decline are multifaceted, ranging from real-estate development to disease. The emerald ash borer, an invasive Asian beetle species that has been on a rampage across the United States, poses a particular problem.

That will require some entirely new trees that can survive, and thrive, in the decades to come. “We’re talking about trees that are very vulnerable,” says Navé Strauss, the head of street-tree planting for New York City. His team manages the planting of new trees on streets and public rights of way; there are more than 666,000 street trees in the city, and the team plants about 16,000 new ones annually. For decades, New York arborists have tended to prefer “tough,” hardy species that thrive well against adversity—such as the London planetree, which sports grayish bark and big, maple-like leaves that offer sidewalks tons of shade. Arborists are planting trees today that must survive decades of global warming. The health, comfort, and happiness of city dwellers hang in the balance.

Trees Are Time Machines

Sandy was “a big wake-up call to us to make sure that we’re considering planting trees that are going to be climate-adapted,” New York’s Navé Strauss told me. Kristen King, a colleague of Strauss’s, is the city’s director of natural-areas restoration and management, in charge of planting and maintaining New York’s parkland, which has about 2 million trees.

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Trees are, in effect, lo-fi geoengineering on an urban scale. Plant them, and things cool down; remove them, and things heat up.

King and Strauss know that climate change means more superstorms like Sandy. They’re easing back on planting trees that won’t thrive in the hotter, wilder weather to come, such as sugar maple (“they need that cold,” Strauss says) and northern red oak. “Big red flag, big red flag,” says Cindi Sullivan, a horticulturalist who used to work for the city and is now the executive director of TreesLouisville, a group that funds tree planting across the city.

It destroyed 319 trees in Prospect Park, a huge, 585-acre green space where some 30,000 trees grow. Of those trees that were killed, almost 50 were very mature—more than 150 years old, planted when the park was constructed in the 19th century. When I wandered through the park two days after the hurricane, local residents were standing in little clusters around the huge, toppled elms and oaks, and I saw a few people weeping. “I feel like someone has died,” one cleanup volunteer told the local radio station WNYC.

On a personal level, Sullivan also has high hopes for the zydeco twist, a species of black gum she planted at her own Louisville home nine years ago. The zydeco twist is originally from Louisiana, and Sullivan bubbled with excitement as she described it to me. “It has great fall colors—oh my gosh, it is fluorescent everything, all at the same time. ” She predicts that hers could survive another 50 to 90 years, well into maturity. But which species of tree will survive Louisville’s emerging climate? Lately, Sullivan’s group has been looking for trees that are native a bit farther south, such as Ulmus crassifolia, the cedar elm.

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But it doesn’t have any species that attack it, nor any that it attacks and crowds out, which makes it a useful addition to a city’s forests. Ecologically, it exists outside of the whole web—it’s a living fossil. And it really can survive cold and heat, and seems to be happy wherever you put it.” One of the trees that helps cities survive climate change may well be one that survived the dinosaurs. So Louisville needs to plant more trees, and ones that are future-proofed.

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The Taos News delivered to your Taos County address every week for 26 weeks! We offer our lowest mail rates to zip codes in the county.Click Here to See if you Qualify.Plan includes unlimited website access and e-edition print replica online. The Taos News delivered to your Taos County address every week for a full year! “It’s technically native,” Willoughby noted, so it thrives almost anywhere in the United States.

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After hundreds of millions of years, the ginkgo had finally come back to America. I asked Jenny Willoughby, the sustainability manager for Frederick, Maryland, how the city’s trees would fare in the hotter decades to come. Increasing the diversity of trees is also crucial, King told me. In previous decades, the city had a fairly small range of trees, with only 40 different species. I remember noticing this effect myself after Hurricane Sandy swept through Brooklyn, where I live, in 2012.

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It produces a big cloud of oval leaves, offering terrific shade, and it’s also good at dealing with drought. If cities want to keep those benefits, they’ve got to plan for a future with a different, more hostile climate. As cities heat up, they effectively become different places, where a species that has persisted for hundreds of years can no longer thrive. By some estimates, the habitable zones for 130 of the country’s tree species could move north by more than 400 miles by the end of the century. Unless cities continually adapt, these shifts could significantly erode their tree canopies, making urban landscapes uglier—and more unlivable. Payroll automatically places time records in Error status when an error occurs in processing a time record or when you make a change to a processed time record.

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