Canopy loss on Amelia Island has been dramatic over the past thirty years. The following photos from Google Earth, taken in 2016, provide a small sample. We encourage you to explore the island on Google Earth yourself to understand our situation more precisely.
We can see the major contributors to canopy loss on the Island:
Everytime a road is cut through the forest, we usher winds and salt into the canopy and, as a result, we lose more trees than those cut. On roads running east to west, a wind tunnel is developed to usher storm winds into our communities.
Housing & Commercial Developments:
The few remaining trees may eventually die from the change in their environment or the fact that they can no longer stand up to the winds. Perhaps a few shade trees will be planted, but they cannot replace the mature trees in terms of benefits. Some choose to plant palms, which also cannot provide the benefits of shade trees.
Extensive swaths of trees are cut that create wind tunnels across the island and usher wind and salt into the canopy. Furthermore, extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides pollutes the water and soil.
The clearing in this area was expanded even more a couple of years ago to meet regulations.
Homeowners are often unaware of the role that trees play in their environment. Often, they simply want to have grass like what they had somewhere else or they fall prey to misinformation that the trees are a threat.
The potential impact of this tree loss is a hotter island, increased cost of heating and cooling, increased storm damage, increased flooding, loss of tourism and our retirement population, and subsequent economic decline.
Critical factors in the survival of our canopy:
Cutting mature trees only when absolutely necessary.
Trees should be cut when they are diseased or dangerous to the community.
Having a succession plan.
Although some trees can live for hundreds of years, most don’t, and we need to plan ahead for the future of canopy in our yards our neighborhoods, our City and County streets, right of ways and properties.
Ensuring that we have sufficient shade trees.
Shade trees contribute greatly to our quality of life and our budgets. Replacing shade trees with palms will result in increased heat island effect on Amelia Island, higher costs of heating and cooling and increased pollution.
Ensuring that we have groups of trees.
Most of our trees grew up in a forest, supported by other trees when strong winds came. When we isolate these trees by cutting the ones around them, we are inviting disaster.
Maintaining the topography and understory.
Maintaining the understory is critical because it is the understory that creates fertile soil and maintains an appropriate level of moisture for the trees. Trees have matured living in a certain topography and with a particular understory. Changing this can kill the tree—it probably won’t die immediately, but over a period of five or ten years.
Maintaining the well being of root systems.
Recent research has shown that what happens around the roots is just as important as what happens above ground. It has demonstrated that mycorrhizal networks (symbiotic associations of the mycelium of a fungus with the roots of a tree) process the minerals and water the trees need and enable trees to communicate and distribute nutrients to each other.
Commitment of the community.
Without the commitment of our political leaders, our business leaders, developers, builders, and residents, we will lose our canopy.