Urban Honolulu has lost 76,000 trees in the last four years, aerial survey finds

Updated: Apr. 15, 2019 at 4:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Trees give shelter, cooling shade and help the environment, especially in urban areas like downtown Honolulu.

But a survey from the U.S. Forest Service says the urban Honolulu area has lost more than 76,000 trees during a four-year period.

The big loss in numbers is one of the reasons a group of volunteers headed to Kaimuki District Park on Monday morning. Their mission was not just to count the trees, but to help in an effort to get more trees planted and cared for.

“What we’re looking for is counting the trees, the condition, and more importantly, where can we plant more trees in the future,” said Daniel Dinnell, executive director of Trees for Honolulu’s Future.

The survey from the U.S. Forest Service used light detection technology and high definition aerial photographs over the Urban Honolulu area, comparing the number of trees from 2010 to 2013. Dinnell found the results alarming.

“So Honolulu has lost 76,000 trees in the last four years,” said Dinnell. “It’s just development, and it’s the idea of ‘just one tree and it’s OK.’ But altogether adding it up, it’s a big impact.”

One of the maps from the survey showed a large loss of tree canopy in the Kapolei area due to development just north of Kalaeloa Airport.

The city’s Urban Forestry Division says there are tree planting requirements for new developments in certain areas, including replacing trees.

The city administration also has announced plans to plant 100,000 trees by 2025, and to increase the urban canopy coverage from the current 25 percent to 35 percent by 2035.

The on-the-ground surveys by volunteers is meant to help.

“The city’s inventory is probably outdated and we’re going to hand over our data to the city, and they can use that to determine where we need more trees for future planting, and which neighborhoods are lacking,” said Naomi Fein, the urban forestry citizen science supervisor for the group Kupu.

“The urban canopy, the amount of trees, is reducing over time. And it’s really from development and the removal of trees, and we’re trying to measure where we are, then improve," said Dinnell.

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