Urban forests have garnered more and more interest as their value is better understood. Aesthetically pleasing, city trees also reduce the heat island effect, improve air quality and can help conserve energy. Few cities have prioritized their trees as much as Sacramento. With 23.6% of tree cover, Sacramento has nearly triple the tree cover of Paris. A worldwide, 20-city comparison made by MIT in association with the World Economic Forum placed Sacramento as the second greenest city, behind only Vancouver. The interactive website, Treepedia, showcases the results of the study.
Sacramento is rightfully proud of the 100,000 trees in its inventory. Even with the recent drought, the city’s tree mortality rate is just 0.5%. The typical mortality rate in a natural forest is 2%. Remarkably, the city owned and maintained trees in parks and right-of-ways represent just 20% of Sacramento’s total trees. The other 80% are on private property. The health of these trees is not monitored or documented but may be in the future. Sacramento is planning to update its Urban Forest Master Plan. Privately owned trees and potential environmental threats are two topics that are likely to be included in the new plan.
The biggest threat to Sacramento’s trees is a tiny beetle that has already ravaged forests in Southern California. The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer infects host trees with a devastating fungus. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that this single parasite could kill 38% of the trees in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer is particularly dangerous because it infects many different species of trees. The pest has not been found in the Sacramento area yet but the city has ramped up monitoring efforts. With the success of their urban forest program, there is little doubt that Sacramento will be proactive with the health of their trees.