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Research Shows U.S. Cities Lose Tree Cover Just When They Need It Most: “And it takes a lot more than a few cities with million tree programs to replace the trees that get chewed up by office buildings and big box stores and parking lots,” stated William Sullivan, professor of landscape architecture


Urban tree planting programs—even the heavily promoted ‘million tree’ campaigns taking place in many U.S. cities—have not kept up with losses. Adding tree cover will require a shift to long-term thinking—especially to plan ways to make room for nature while also accommodating new growth. “It’s not enough to have a phenomenal world-class park three miles from your home. A tree needs to grow outside every window and doorway,” stated William Sullivan.

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“Urban foresters, planners and decision-makers need to understand trends in urban forests so they can develop and maintain sufficient levels of tree cover – and the accompanying forest benefits – for current and future generations of citizens,” stated David Nowak, lead author for research undertaken by US Forest Service


The study builds on a finding that was identified by David Nowak and co-author Eric Greenfield in a ground-breaking 2012 study that found 17 out of 20 American cities had experienced significant tree loss. Nowak is worried about what will happen if the trend continues. “If it keeps going down, I think we’re going to be in trouble. Cities will warm up, we might have more pollution, people will be more unhealthy,” he said. There is robust evidence to suggest that trees are good for public health.

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YOUTUBE VIDEO: “The worth of a creekshed is a package of ecological services made possible by the hydrology,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process (EAP), an initiative of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


“EAP would help stakeholders / managers determine whether or not they should change practices and adopt new strategies regarding the ecological systems in the stream corridor, riparian zone and the entire watershed. EAP would contribute to a range of stakeholder interests and needs,” stated Tim Pringle. “Taking action would depend on what they think the creekshed is worth. The next step is doing. A strategy is the path to success, and becomes our primary interface with the world.”

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DOWNLOAD: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) for Watershed Assessment (released at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium, April 2018)


“The Symposium provided a platform for a call for action because adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we value nature and service land. An informed stewardship sector can be a catalyst for action on Vancouver Island and beyond, through collaboration with local government,” stated Kim Stephens. “Tim Pringle shared demonstration application anecdotes about EAP, a whole-system view of watersheds that assesses hydrology in order to accurately describe ecological services.”

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SPONGE CITIES: “Design is a meeting point between technology and art where Western systematic thinking is grafted together with traditional Chinese wisdom,” stated Kongjian Yu, the landscape architect who has transformed some of China’s most industrialized cities into standard bearers of green architecture


“In order to increase the resilience of a natural system, it is important to find solutions beyond the level of the city and even nation. I’m talking about a whole global system, in which we think globally but must act locally,” says Kongjian Yu. He is famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. In the process he has transformed some of China’s most industrialized cities into standard bearers of green architecture.

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“The Buttertubs Marsh pilot study added up the value of natural infrastructure, and found that environmental assets have dollar value,” says Rob Lawrance, City of Nanaimo environmental planner


Buttertubs Marsh is a bird and wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of the City of Nanaimo. The marsh is man-made. For anyone looking at a wetland or watercourse, the value is clear but it’s also subjective, said Rob Lawrance, who noted the study put the marsh in the context of a physical utility asset and a language city financial planners speak. The natural system is able to handle increased pressure and has resiliency, he said, adding it has more value than he thought.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010 FROM RAIN TO RESOURCE WORKSHOP: “The Water Balance Model is a response to the need to quickly test alternative green infrastructure techniques prior to implementation,” stated Jim Dumont


“The WBM allows the user to quickly establish the existing, or the predevelopment, base line that will become the standard used to measure the performance of future development scenarios during the planning and design of a project. This allows the user to test various methods to establish the easiest and best ways to achieve the most desirable vision of the future for the Site, the Development, or the Watershed,” stated Jim Dumont.

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A CALL TO ACTION: “Without integrated and proactive green resilience strategies, cities risk wasting time and money on adaptation projects,” warns Steve Winkelman in a report released by the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) at Simon Fraser University (Nov 2017)


“Strategically packaging projects for multiple funders and investors can attract more money and accelerate implementation based on policy and investor priorities, such as – critical infrastructure resilience, business continuity, reduced operating and capital costs, disaster prevention, affordable housing, health, and habitat protection,” stated Steve Winkelman.

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CASE FOR GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: “Revitalizing the natural hydrological system can also aid the absorption of floodwaters,” notes Dr. John Jacob, Texas A&M University


US cities situated next to large bodies of water, including Boston, Houston, and Milwaukee, are making plans to build water-absorbent green spaces that also serve as recreational spots – instead of installing more industrial concrete walls – to stem rising floodwaters. “The focus of Community Engagement and Risk Communication is to help Texas coastal communities go beyond emergency response to achieve long-term resilience to hazards,” said Dr. John Jacob.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: “Developing a more thorough understanding of the community’s natural assets aligns with the city’s overall asset management efforts,” stated Courtenay CAO David Allen


“We’re very pleased to have been selected for a natural asset pilot project here in Courtenay, and it puts us on the leading edge nationally for this approach,” noted David Allen. “We’ve already seen the effects of several floods in low-lying areas in recent years, and it makes sense to maximize the potential of our natural environment to reduce the potential impact of these events on residents and businesses.”

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