Tree canopy hits 26-year low in Tampa, report says

TAMPA ( — Carly Morgan and her husband chose their South Tampa home in part because of the trees on the property.

“They affect our energy costs and the landscape looks a lot better with big trees,” Morgan said, “so that was a big factor.”

Morgan told News Channel 8 that she was concerned about the reduction in tree canopy in Tampa.

“Since houses are being demolished in our area,” she said, “it feels like the very first thing that happens is that all the trees are removed from the site before a new one is built.”

A new five-year analysis shows that the city’s tree canopy is the smallest in 26 years. The development and death of old trees are two reasons for this.

Between 2016 and 2021, South Tampa’s forest plantation declined the most, at six percent.

On Thursday evening, the city held a symposium to educate the public on the importance of conserving and planting more trees.

“Trees have a million benefits, but we Florida folks really need to think about the right tree in the right place,” City Councilwoman Lynn Hertak said. “Plant more shade trees instead of palm trees.”

In addition to helping residents cool off during the hot summer months, trees can reduce air pollutants and help absorb water during storms.

“Trees absorb a lot of water, and this is very important for us, especially since most of our city is located in a coastal high-risk zone,” Hurtak said.

Morgan said they planted a new tree in their front lawn two and a half years ago after they lost one of their large oak trees.

“You know these trees were planted when the houses were being built, but now they’re getting old and dying, and if we don’t replace them, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble,” Morgan said. “That’s why we were so sad when we lost that tree.”

The Tampa Tree-Mendous Free Program provides local associations and residents with trees to plant on city lands and right of way. The city has set a goal of planting 30,000 trees by 2030.

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