From the ABC 7 Weather team

Washington D.C. trees blooming heavier in Northwest 'hoods

April 26, 2011 - 03:14 PM
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Why is there a thicker, fuller tree canopy in residential neighborhoods in Northwest D.C., whereas Northeast and Southeast are relatively barren?

Courtesty of the Woods Hole Research Center's National Biomass and Carbon Dataset project

Feast your pollen-coated eyes at this leafy view of the United States. It's the most detailed map to date that shows of the height and extent of U.S. forests.

The map, created by the Woods Hole Research Center's National Biomass and Carbon Dataset project, is a visual representation of the nation’s “carbon stock.” That term describes the amount of carbon locked into trees, leaves and dead wood. Climate scientists find carbon stock intriguing, because the levels of carbon dioxide captured and released by plant material plays a role in global temperature trends. This map is based on tree data from 2000 to 20001 and will be useful as a baseline for climatologists.

What struck me immediately about it, though, was the inequality of trees in our backyard. Zoom into D.C. and you see this: 

d.c. tree canopy 

Northwest appears to be hoarding all the trees. Obviously, Rock Creek Park has a lot to do with that, as does the concrete-clad downtown areas. But even the neighborhoods to the west of Rock Creek are heavily wooded, whereas many residential 'hoods in Northeast and Southeast D.C. look as barren as Michael Chiklis' pate.

An urban tree-canopy map created by Casey Trees, a local group devoted to enhancing the District’s boughs, also shows a skewed distribution. Ward Three has the densest concentration of trees of all the wards, with 56 percent of its area covered by canopy. Ward Four is a close second at 47 percent greening. The most barren region of D.C. is Ward Six, where only 15* percent of the ground has some sort of tree cover – even though a full third of the ward is open for more tree planting, by Casey's estimates. Wards Six, Seven and Eight have most acreage in D.C. that could support additional tree life – 36, 34 and 40, respectively.

I have a call out to try to suss out the historical explanation for this vegetative case of the haves/have-nots. But for now, anybody have any guesses?

* The original article reported that Ward Five was the most barren, at 28 percent canopy.

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