A West Palm Beach tree count is underway, with a surveyor documenting the species, size, and health of each shade maker in the neighborhood’s rights-of-way and medians.
The tally is part of the city’s efforts to tackle climate change and meet its goal of achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It means encouraging people to walk or cycle instead. to drive, and to do so in South Florida, shade is a necessity.
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“You don’t want to ride a bike or walk in the hot sun, and because of climate change we have more and more warmer days,” said Penni Redford, Head of Resilience and Climate Change at West Palm Beach. “We focus on trees as a city and you can’t really manage and improve something that you don’t have good measure for. “
Climate Change How much have daily temperatures in Palm Beach County increased?
Palm Beach County’s average daily temperature has risen nearly 4 degrees since 1900, from 73 degrees to the 2020 average of 76.9, according to the National Environmental Information Centers.
More striking was the jump in the overnight lows which warmed by 4.6 degrees, from 63.3 in 1900 to 67.9 degrees in 2020.
And it does not cool down. By 2090, temperatures in most of Florida are expected to exceed 95 degrees between 45 and 90 days a year, down from less than 15 days in 2015, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
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How do trees cool the air?
Trees cool the air in two ways. The leaf matrix in the canopy reduces the amount of sunlight absorbed by the soil, which limits the amount of heat returned to the air. Trees also cool the air through transpiration – a process in which water vapor is emitted from the leaves of a tree.
Redford said the city already has an aerial assessment of its canopy, but it does not give details on individual trees or streets.
To do this year’s walk survey, the city secured a $ 20,000 grant through the Florida Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. The city matched the grant and hired the Fort Lauderdale-based company Environmental Consulting Services Group. The focus is on trees in the right-of-way – the area between the sidewalk and the curb. For the most part, this is city property that is taken over by the owner of the building or the adjacent house.
The survey does not include trees on private property.
It is the second West Palm Beach contract for Marisa Magrino, owner of Environmental Consulting Services Group. Last year, she identified 9,900 trees for the city, mostly in parks and some neighborhoods, including Flamingo Park.
She started this year’s survey in August and hopes to complete 8,000 trees by the end of the year.
“The amount of trees we produce is huge,” said Magrino, a biologist and arborist who also works with Coral Springs and Palm Beach Gardens.
Magrino’s measurements include the height, diameter, and canopy cover of the tree. She assesses its health and also makes observations on each tree, for example if it has any supports that should be removed, if there is rot or if it is tangled in overhead power lines.
“I take two photographs of each tree that I try not to take directly towards someone’s front door or windows,” Magrino said.
Why is West Palm promoting planting deciduous trees on palms?
Residents curious about why people were rating trees in neighborhoods south of downtown West Palm Beach recently posted to an online community discussion board asking them what was going on.
“We are not the tree police,” Redford said, although she noted that a permit is required to plant a tree in the right-of-way. There is also a minimum size requirement for a new tree planted in the right-of-way of at least 12 feet.
The city encourages people to plant native hardwoods and hardwoods on palm trees, which provide less shade and capture less carbon.
In Magrino’s survey of city parks and certain neighborhoods last year, she found that the most common tree species was the 38.7% native cabbage palm. Overall, 60% of the trees identified were palm trees.
“I will make recommendations, such as continuing to plant native trees and increasing the number of shade trees,” she said.
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Palm trees aren’t even an option in city tree gifts, where more than a dozen other types of trees, including green button antlers or wild tamarind are typically offered. A 2018 municipal ordinance also emphasizes the use of more shade trees in new construction, especially parking lots where 75% of the trees required must now be shade trees.
In addition to the $ 20,000 grant, announced by the city in January, two previous grants of $ 20,000 were also awarded to help the city create a tree management plan and conduct additional surveys.
Eventually, Redford hopes to have a detailed street-by-street inventory of the city’s trees that would be accessible to the public. “So if you were driving and you saw this beautiful tree and you wanted to know what variety it is, you could go on the map and find it,” Redford said.
For more information on tree gifts to West Palm Beach residents, visit the city’s website Site “10,000 trees in 10 years”.
Kimberly Miller is a veteran reporter for the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA Today Network in Florida. She covers weather, climate and environment and has a certificate in weather forecasting from Penn State. Contact Kim at [email protected]