This month, the USDA Forest Service is carrying out Pittsburgh’s first urban Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA). Pittsburgh is one of the first urban areas to be surveyed by the FIA program, often referred to as “the Nation’s Forest Census.” After 80 years of monitoring the nation’s rural forests, the FIA has begun surveying select metropolitan areas in recognition of the value of urban forests and the need to gather data for their management.
83% of the Nation’s population resides in urban areas, where trees clean the air, reduce energy costs, and give people a vital connection to nature. A recent study in New York City found that an increase of just 343 urban trees per square kilometer was associated with 29 percent lower incidence of early childhood asthma. Urban trees also mitigate urban carbon emissions, storing over 708 million tons of carbon, which is equivalent to annually mitigating the emissions of about 500 million automobiles.
The Forest Inventory and Analysis program is fundamental to all forestry activities. It provides comprehensive and reliable data across all ownerships, which in turn informs the decisions of forest resource managers and policymakers. Urban FIA will periodically monitor tree species, size, crown condition, damage, ground cover, and ownership. The benefits of urban FIA continually grow as a consequence of urbanization, as urban FIA data will allow urban populations to benefit more fully from their communities' forests.