Forests have a diverse effect on natural complexes and the biosphere as a whole. The conservation and functioning of eco and geosystems largely depend on the state of forests. Therefore, forest protection is of paramount importance when solving many issues related to the environment. However, deforestation has become a significant problem that could result in a natural disaster. There is evidence that the urban areas of the United States are losing trees at high rates (Clement, Chi, & Ho, 2015). Under these circumstances, the temperatures will rise, leading to environmental calamities.
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Role of Forests
In forested areas, surface runoff prevails; therefore, deforestation, as a rule, is accompanied by an increase in floods on rivers and an increase in their levels. The massive floods in the Yellow River basin, Mississippi, Vistula, and many other rivers are primarily associated with deforestation in their watersheds (Ives & Pitt, 2019). Forests also protect agricultural lands and crops from adverse natural processes. Arable land surrounded by forests has microclimatic conditions more favorable for agriculture – lower temperature amplitudes and wind speed, higher relative air humidity, and weaker turbulent heat transfer (Rasmussen, Watkins, & Agrawal, 2017).
All this leads to a decrease in unproductive evaporation, mitigation of the influence of cold winds and dry winds, an increase in the reserves of sufficient moisture in the soil, and, ultimately, higher yields (Rasmussen et al., 2017). In fields surrounded by forests, crops are more stable and less susceptible to climatic and weather variations (Rasmussen et al., 2017). The shielding and soil-protective functions of forests are performed to a certain extent by forest strips planted around ravines and gullies, along the borders of fields, and on slopes. A dense network of buffer strips creates conditions favorable for obtaining higher and more sustainable crops.
Forest has a significant impact on both macro and microclimate. The effect on the global climate processes of tropical forests is substantial. Tropical rainforests convey a considerable amount of water vapor into the atmosphere (Seymour & Busch, 2016).
Therefore, in terms of climate impact, they can be compared with the oceans. But the intensity of the effects and its nature is changing due to deforestation. According to space observations, the average annual reduction in the area of tropical forests over the past 30 years has occurred at a rate of 5-6 million hectares per year (Seymour & Busch, 2016). This process is unusually fast in West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America. The Earth’s surface at the site of deforestation reflects more solar energy, resulting in reduced advection and convection, which leads to a decrease in rainfall (Seymour & Busch, 2016). According to some scientists, an increase in the frequency of droughts and their exacerbation in the Sahel region of Africa is due to deforestation.
Rainforests absorb about 25% of the carbon entering the atmosphere as a result of burning vegetation and mineral fuels (Seymour & Busch, 2016). The decrease in the rainforest area inevitably causes an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As a result, the greenhouse effect arises and intensifies in the atmosphere, which is manifested in an increase in the average temperatures of the surface air layers. Thus, a decrease in forest area may be accompanied by significant disturbances in climatic conditions, both regional and global. One of the urgent tasks of geoecology is forecasting the consequences of these processes.
Current State of Deforestation
According to the massive research conducted with the use of satellite images and historical data, nearly half of the once-existing forests have been destroyed since human civilization emerged (Crowther et al., 2015). Of the remaining, only 22 percent are made up of natural ecosystems, and the rest are heavily modified under the impacts of human activity (Crowther et al., 2015). Deforestation reached its most massive scale in the 20th century.
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At the beginning of the 21st century, scientists estimated that the 20th century was accountable for a 75% reduction in the forest area (Crowther et al., 2015). This deterioration is associated primarily with the need to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population of the Earth. A significant portion of the remaining forests is located in 3 countries – Russia, Canada, and Brazil. The highest loss of forests was recorded in Asia, followed by Africa and Latin America. Over the past 40 years, the world’s forest area per capita has decreased by more than 50%, from 1.2 ha to 0.6 hectares per person (NationMaster, 2019).
This paper is a proposal for research that will evaluate the efficacy of legislation that is targeted to reduce emissions and deforestation in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Statistics on the example of Brazil show that government measures taken to conserve the remaining rainforests may be effective. Therefore, the scientific community must research to assess the current policies and propose more favorable solutions.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City (SLC) is the capital of Utah and has the most population in the state. The city is among the few that have a climate plan approved by the mayor. By 2030, SLC is planning to switch to renewable energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (Salt Lake City, 2017). Furthermore, the city government has a code that protects urban trees from construction and other activities (Salt Lake City, 2019d). However, there is nobody of evidence that shows the extent to which these policies contribute to afforestation and reduced emissions.
Urban forestry of SLC consists of 85,000 trees, and all of them are classified as public land (Salt Lake City, 2019d). All of these trees are protected under the SLC code and enforced via legislation (Salt Lake City, 2019a). The policies include the Tree Protection and Preservation Policy (TPPP), and Tree Removal Mitigation Policy (TRMP) (Salt Lake City, 2019a). Also, the city provides Urban Forestry services both for individuals seeking to plant new trees, and companies that are willing to engage in construction activities.
Tree Protection and Preservation Policy
This policy seeks to minimize the adverse impacts on trees that may be acquired from construction activities. The city code emphasizes the significance of tree roots – they can be damaged during digging and may not lead to immediate visual changes, but the policy restricts entities from cutting the roots (Salt Lake City, 2019b). According to the policy, damaging the roots may compromise the anchorage and lead to serious public safety concerns (Salt Lake City, 2019b).
It may also result in tree death, which will impact air quality and climate (Salt Lake City, 2019b). TPPP sets guidelines for construction sites that require a tree protection plan to be developed before the beginning of the construction work (Salt Lake City, 2019b). The plan includes establishing a Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) for each tree that is on the site (Salt Lake City, 2019b). TPPP also contains instructions on how the TPZ should be treated – it restricts digging, grading, trenching, or storing of materials in the TPZ (Salt Lake City, 2019b). Only under specific circumstances, and with the written authorization from Urban Forestry Services, construction workers may alter the TPZ.
Tree Removal Mitigation Policy
This policy seeks to disincentivize tree removal and motivate individuals and companies to attempt to save trees. The city government requires persons that remove trees to plant a substitute on an inch-per-inch basis (Salt Lake City, 2019c). For instance, the removal of a tree with a diameter at breast height of 10 inches requires the person to plant a new 10-inch tree. To prevent people from merely moving a tree to some other area, the authorities force people to plant the replacement tree on the same park strip (Salt Lake City, 2019c).
However, if there is no adequate space to plant the tree on the same park strip, the individual needs to pay the city the cash value of the replacement inches (Salt Lake City, 2019c). Currently, the price for one inch is 172 dollars; therefore, the cash value of a 10-inch tree would be 1720 dollars (Salt Lake City, 2019c). These rules only apply to public trees, and the private trees are governed by the Private Lands Tree Preservation policy.
Even trees that are under private ownership are protected by the city government. Similar to public trees, if a private tree is removed, it should be replaced by a different specimen (Sterling Codifiers, 2019). Overall, the policy regarding private trees is similar to TPPP and TRMP (Sterling Codifiers, 2019). The differences are on the exceptional cases when it is permitted to remove the tree without providing a replacement specimen, and the absence of cash value.
Climate Positive Act
Salt Lake City’s plan to contribute to the environment is exceptional because, as a city with a relatively small population, it is making an impact. The Climate Positive Act states that half of the consumed energy will be comprised of renewable sources, and this percentage will 100% by 2032 (Salt Lake City, 2017). Also, by 2040, the city strives to reduce emissions by 80% (Salt Lake City, 2017). SLC plans to achieve these outcomes by constructing efficient buildings, resiliency, eliminating waste, producing sustainable food, running on renewable energy, and providing clean transportation for its residents (Salt Lake City, 2017). The city’s plan can serve as an example to other cities and countries. The scientific community may use SLC as a site for researching evaluating how well policies affect emissions, air quality, and deforestation.
Trees are significant for keeping temperature levels at moderate levels. The temperature problem is especially relevant in Los Angeles, where the average temperature is steadily rising yearly (McGlynn et al., 2019).
In these circumstances, the number of infectious insects may increase, which will be an additional source of issues for people, besides changing climate and pollution. However, Los Angeles, too, is engaging in pro-climate activities to mitigate the risks associated with carbon dioxide emissions, temperature rise, and associated consequences. Tree policies in Los Angeles are not as developed as in Salt Lake City – most of the policies are currently under reform due to their proven inefficiency (Pampanin, 2019). In 2019, the city published a sustainability plan that is comprised of specific actions and milestones that will be tackled by 2040. This Green New Deal may become a significant step toward battling rising environmental concerns in Los Angeles.
Tree Removal and Replacement Procedures
Government officials emphasize the importance of a tree canopy for Angelenos. The primary cause of tree removal, as stated by the city government, is the pedestrian Sidewalk Repair program, which has specific requirements for the accessibility and safety of pavements (Ryu, 2019). If a tree poses a risk to public safety, it is removed (Ryu, 2019). However, the city-states that every removed tree should be replaced at a 2 to 1 ratio and in the same area (Ryu, 2019). Under circumstances where it is impossible to replant the tree in the same place or the designated ratio, the individual should pay in cash form (Ryu, 2019).
The Urban Forestry Division is responsible for maintaining a list of approved trees and authorizing removal and replanting (Ryu, 2019). Current policies, however, are believed by some governors to be inefficient (Pampanin, 2019). Therefore, reforms are being proposed, and some of them have been achieved (Pampanin, 2019). The efficacy of these new policies should be assessed by the researchers in the coming years.
The city’s Green New Deal has already become a significant contribution. The plan was chosen as the most innovative, ambitious, and achievable by Bloomberg Philanthropies (Los Angeles Mayor, 2019). The deal, in many ways, resembles the action plan developed by SLC. The city seeks to switch to renewable energy, improve the quality of water, start building clean and healthy buildings, encourage the use of public transit, promote zero-emission vehicles, commit to air quality monitoring, and reduce waste (Los Angeles Mayor, 2019). The city’s government is proposing two implementation bodies that will help achieve the goals – Climate Emergency Commission (CEC) and the Jobs Cabinet (Los Angeles Mayor, 2019).
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The primary objective of CEC will be to engage local communities to take part in the deal actively (Los Angeles Mayor, 2019). The Jobs Cabinet will work on creating green jobs, identifying the skills needed, and providing the required training (Los Angeles Mayor, 2019). As with the new three policies of Los Angeles, the efficacy of the Green New Deal can only be measured through a systematic approach and data collection.
The research will evaluate the impact that the policies have on the volume of carbon emissions. More specifically, the efficacy of SLC and Los Angeles policies will be assessed in terms of the extent of their influence on emissions. Therefore, the research question is, “What are the effects of policy to reduce emissions in Salt Lake City and Lost Angeles?” The research will concentrate more on afforestation attempts undertaken by the cities’ authorities.
The study is an environmental impact assessment and is related to the area of public policy. Because both the level of carbon emissions and the effectiveness of legislation are evaluated, the research can be considered interdisciplinary. Because there is no scientific evidence that shows how well the deforestation prevention policy is implemented in each of the regions, the study is significant to conduct to identify any pitfalls and mistakes.
The primary variables in the study are the number of trees and the volume of carbon emissions. If the policies are effective, the number of trees should rise by the end of the study period. In turn, the emission levels should decrease. However, other variables, such as the reasons why trees were cut or planted, the number of trees replanted, and the percentage of emissions for which deforestation accounts.
Benchmarking techniques will be used as the basis for the analytical procedure. The collected data will be plotted in the time-series plots to identify patterns related to legislation change. Benchmarking will also be used to compare the emission levels with the historical data to see if policies are contributing to any difference. The plots will help detect the relationships between specific variables, such as the reason for tree removal and the number of trees replanted.
The research results may only apply to cities with approved and functioning climate plans, because the promotional efforts led by the city governments may cause undocumented changes to carbon emissions. For instance, the impact of policies may be different in cities with no active climate action plans. The readers should keep in mind that, while policies may significantly contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions, other government activities, such as the promotion of electric cars, may indirectly affect the efficacy of policies. Therefore, the results will be most accurate for cities that are implementing a climate action plan similar to Green New Deal and Climate Positive Act.
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Crowther, T. W., Glick, H. B., Covey, K. R., Bettigole, C., Maynard, D. S., Thomas, S. M.,… & Tuanmu, M. N. (2015). Mapping tree density at a global scale. Nature, 525(7568), 201-205.
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McGlynn, T. P., Meineke, E. K., Bahlai, C. A., Li, E., Hartop, E. A., Adams, B. J., & Brown, B. V. (2019). Temperature accounts for the biodiversity of a hyperdiverse group of insects in urban Los Angeles. bioRxiv. Web.
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