BR’s tree canopy providing environmental benefits

The more than one million trees in the city of Baton Rouge provide environmental benefits to the capital region, including improving air quality and providing energy savings to homes.

Those are just some of the values Baton Rouge’s extensive tree canopy in Baton Rouge provides, Kamran Abdollahi, professor and graduate director with the urban forestry program at Southern University and A&M, told attendees at the Baton Rouge Green’s Louisiana’s Arbor Day luncheon Thursday.

The study Abdollahi did uses information gathered from 400 tenth-of-an acre plots around the city of Baton Rouge. The data was then analyzed through a U.S. Department of Agriculture online program called i-Tree. The i-Tree program was formed in 2006 and is used to determine the benefits and values of urban forestry.

It’s no surprise that the largest concentration of trees can be found in forest and agricultural land at 158 trees per acre, while residential areas have almost 58 trees per acre, Abdollahi said.

In total, Baton Rouge has a 44 percent tree canopy coverage. While down from the 55 percent tree coverage researchers found in 1992, Abdollahi said, that’s not surprising given the limited technology used in the 1992 study and the number of storms that thinned out portions of the urban forest.

“We have pretty good coverage,” Abdollahi said.

The most common species of trees include live oak, sweet gum, loblolly pine, pecan-hickory, bald cypress, water oak, willow oak, Southern magnolia and crape myrtle.

“We have a very good accumulation of native species,” he said.

These trees have more value than just the $6.2 billion estimated replacement costs for the trees themselves. Using i-Tree, Abdollahi and other researchers found that the trees remove about 178,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, reduce annual home energy costs by $8 million a year and reduce air pollution by 860 tons per year.