In forest ecology, a canopy defined by the upper layer of all forests is a habitat zone formed by mature crowns of trees and containing a diverse system of organisms in a healthy ecosystem. It is a cover, and an environment so different than one without.
In terms of many urban areas, this canopy is quickly being destroyed in the name of “healthy forest” initiatives and for urban development, while saplings are given the impossible task of “replacing” what they cannot replace.
- Faced with higher temperatures annually, middle-aged trees, as well as saplings are dying from drought. With less tree cover and more concrete, more heat, a vicious cycle of deforestation ensues and escalates. Our canopy in Minneapolis, at less than 32 percent, continues to diminish.
- Much wood is being used for energy purposes and for other commercial interests; so, through short-sighted practices and views, these mature trees become worth more dead than alive.
- Rather than divert a road, create a sustainable alternative, short term development projects, new over-sized homes and housing developments apply expediency over sanity. It takes time to treat a pattern, to water a tree and keep it free from disease and pests. It costs money too, sometimes.
- Suffice to say, with less water and higher temperatures, a tree has no stamina to fight disease and infestations. It certainly cannot survive a chain saw aimed at its destruction. Witness the wholesale destruction of mature ash trees along one boulevard after another in Minneapolis.
- Public policies that prioritize cutting down healthy trees from fear of infestation or disease, rather than watering and wise tree care, replace our canopy with saplings that have even less prospect of survival.
A canopy of mature trees, some that have stood for one hundred or more years cannot be replaced by saplings, no matter how many we plant. Management practices need to change to a holistic approach, understanding that all things, even emerald ash borer, has its place in this system. Insecticides and removal should be emergency management options only. Wouldn’t it be better to maintain a healthy forest, one that is managed long term to retain its canopy, with an urban forest management system that has teeth?