Photo: 2016 Tampa City of Tampa Tree Canopy and Urban Forest Analysis

“Carley Morgan and her husband picked their South Tampa home, in part, because of the trees on the property.

‘They make a difference on our energy cost and it makes the landscaping look so much nicer to have the big trees,” Morgan said, ‘so it was a big factor…’

‘As houses are being knocked down in our area,’ she said, ‘it feels like the very first thing that happens is all of the trees are taken off the lot before they build a new one.’

A new five-year analysis found the city’s tree canopy is the smallest it’s been in 26 years. Development and older trees dying are two reasons why.

Between 2016 and 2021, South Tampa’s tree coverage had the biggest decrease of six percent…

‘There are a million benefits to trees, but as Floridians we really need to consider the right tree in the right place,’ City Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak said. ‘Planting more shade trees instead of palm trees.’

In addition to helping residents cool off during hot summer months, trees can reduce air pollutants and help absorb water during storms.

‘Trees suck up a lot of water and for us that’s critical, especially because a lot of our city is in the coastal high hazard area,’ Hurtak said.

Morgan said they planted a new tree on their front lawn two and half years ago after losing one of their larger oak trees.

‘You know those trees were planted when the houses were put in, but now they’re getting older so they’re dying, and if we don’t replace them, we’re in really bad shape,’ Morgan said. “So we were so sad when we lost that tree.'”

— Justin Schecker, Channel 8 News WFLA

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Read 2016 analysis here