The devastation of the American urban forest: A review from Oak Park, Illinois


Leslie M Golden*

Since its arrival in the 1930’s to North America, Dutch elm disease has devastated the population of the majestic, wide canopy, habitat-forming, shade-producing, and cooling American elm trees. Inoculation and removal of diseased trees can retard the spread. A popular choice of local governments for parkway trees since the early 1900’s, governments have the responsibility for this maintenance. In this case study of Oak Park, Illinois, we examine the deforestation of a significant part of the village. Such unfortunate occurrences create a source of global warming, both by the loss of the direct cooling effect of the shade trees as well as reducing the absorption during photosynthesis of the most significant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Devastation of trees also removes their beauty from our landscapes and the loss of food and habitat for insects, birds, and mammals. Suggestions for improving the accountability of local governments in this maintenance are presented.

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