Urban forest structure, ecosystem services and change in Syracuse, NY.
The tree population within the City of Syracuse was assessed using a random sampling of plots in 1999, 2001 and 2009 to determine how the population and the ecosystem services these trees provide have changed over time. Ecosystem services and values for carbon sequestration, air pollution removal and changes in building energy use were derived using the i-Tree Eco model. In addition, photo interpretation of aerial images was used to determine changes in tree cover between the mid-1990s and 2009. Between the mid-1990s and 2003, tree cover in Syracuse exhibited a decline from 27.5 to 25.9%, but subsequently increased to 26.9% by 2009. The total tree population exhibited a similar pattern, dropping from 881,000 trees in 1999 to 862,000 in 2001, and then increasing to 1,087,000 trees in 2009. Most of this increase in the urban tree population is due to invasive or pioneer trees species, particularly Rhamnus cathartica, which has more than tripled in population between 2001 and 2009. Insects such as gypsy moth and emerald ash borer pose a substantial risk to altering future urban forest composition. The annual ecosystem services provided by the urban forest in relation to carbon sequestration, air pollution removal and reduction in building energy use are estimated at about $2.4 million per year. An improved understanding of urban forests and how they are changing can facilitate better management plans to sustain ecosystem services and desired forest structure for future generations.