Quiet Crisis: Saving Trees in Los Angeles

This article was written by Andy Lipkis and first appeared on Pacific Horticulture Throughout Los Angeles trees are in decline. It is a quiet crisis, and it’s accelerating. Losing trees begins a vicious cycle of creating an ever hotter and drier urban climate that threatens public health and the very livability of our city.

Last spring I attended a presentation by the Urban Forester of Santa Monica. He said that after four years of drought, our trees’ ability to take up water has atrophied, especially in trees not native to our region. Whereas in past years many trees have been struggling but surviving, it’s now reached the point where they’re dying. This is a critical time for saving LA’s trees.

Many of LA’s declining trees need emergency watering. Over the decades taxpayer dollars have paid for millions of trees to be planted in our region, trees that have been repaying us many times over by providing a precious tree canopy. Many of these trees may be lost. This not only means a loss of this investment. It also means a loss of beauty, wildlife habitat, oxygen, air-cleaning, water-cleaning, carbon-absorbing, health-providing services to Angelenos. But even more is at stake: this loss of trees could threaten our very lives.

I learned this vividly on a recent tour of Australia, a country that has seen record-breaking heat in recent years due to climate change. From 1997 to 2010 Australia endured a devastating drought. Their powerful successes, as well as some of their painful mistakes, provide a valuable guide to us in Los Angeles and California as we face similar conditions today.