ORLANDO, Fla. — With Florida’s Arbor Day on Jan. 18, more local municipalities are looking for ways to recognize the importance of trees in urban areas. Orlando has a tree giveaway program, while Tampa is currently working to update its tree protection laws.
According to Andrew Koeser, a University of Florida assistant professor of environmental horticulture and landscape management, municipalities with ordinances enacted to protect trees have increased canopy coverage, which leads to greater environmental and economic benefits, and more livable urban conditions.
“The I-4 corridor is booming with development, and local governments are starting to look at how development is affecting tree canopies, while others have been doing this for decades,” said Koeser, with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Our study of 43 cities in Florida shows that municipalities that had laws in place to protect trees had increased canopy coverage.”
This tree canopy cools urban areas, provides shade to homes, improves air quality and increases water retention, Koeser said. “Tree planting is great and is something I personally do each Arbor Day. That said, protecting existing trees will get cities the best bang for the buck,” he said.
“We noticed an increase in canopy for cities with laws that specifically protect large-stature trees,” Koeser said. “It takes decades to replace a big tree. They are the lucky survivors that have made it past the stresses of transplanting, survived mower damage and vandalism while young, and were located on sites with sufficient space and resources to support them into old age.”
Koeser notes that everyone can celebrate Arbor Day, even homeowners who don’t have the space to plant another tree in their yard. “Prune existing young trees for structure and put mulch around all the trees you care for. This will help them grow a strong, wind-resistant form, reduce drought and compaction stress, and prevent lawn care damage,” he said.
In honor of Arbor Day, UF/IFAS Extension Lake County will host a free tree giveaway from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 19 at Wooten Park, 100 E Ruby Street, Tavares. Also, certified arborist Brooke Moffis, of UF/IFAS Extension Lake County, will give a talk at 11:30 a.m. on “The Right Tree, Right Place.” Master Gardeners will give a class at 1:30 p.m. on “Easy to Propagate Trees and Shrubs for Central Florida.”
For more articles out of Florida, click here.