Cuyahoga County is the most densely populated county in the State of Ohio. Its land area continues to be challenged by sprawl, large impervious areas, and fragmented habitat, and preservation of its remaining tree cover will continue to be difficult without concerted effort.
Cuyahoga County in recent years has launched a number of initiatives aimed at raising awareness and conserving its natural resources:
- Urban Tree Canopy Assessment (2013)
- Cuyahoga County Greenprint (2015)
- Cuyahoga Greenways Plan (2019)
- County Climate Change Action Plan (2018)
- Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant Program (2019)
The City of Cleveland also published The Cleveland Tree Plan for its neighborhoods in 2015.
The 2019 updated Urban Tree Canopy Assessment complements these program efforts with support and guidance based upon in high quality data.
Existing & Possible Tree Canopy
The updated 2017 results for Cuyahoga County, show that just over 100,000 acres of the county were covered by tree canopy, representing 34.7% of all land in the county. An additional 45.5% (371,000 acres) of the county can be considered “Possible Tree Canopy”. Within the Possible category, 15.5% (45,200 acres) of the County was classified as “Impervious Possible” and another 33.0% was Vegetated Possible (96,000 acres). “Vegetated Possible”, or grass and shrubs, is more conducive to establishing new tree canopy, but establishing tree canopy on areas classified as “Impervious Possible” would have a greater impact on water quality and summer temperatures.
The results for 2017 indicate that the Cuyahoga County has posted a net tree canopy loss of about 6,600 acres – a decline of 6.1% of its tree canopy since 2011. The County’s tree canopy now stands at 34.7% of its total land area (down from 37.0% in 2011). This net loss comes despite concerted efforts in recent years to increase tree cover, and reflects losses due to development, invasive pests, and other causes such as wind damage and neglect. As an example; the Emerald Ash Borer and Superstorm Sandy occurred since the time of the last study in 2011. Slight gains that were observed between the assessment periods were due primarily to the slow growth of existing trees over time, as well as some growth from recent plantings.
The effect of natural losses are observable within the protected Cleveland Metroparks Reservations, which showed a tree canopy decline of nearly 6% from 2011-2017. Nearly every reservation showed a net loss in canopy, attributed largely to emerald ash borer infestations.
Another factor in tree canopy decline was clear-cutting for development, particularly in outer suburbs. See the supplemental article on Clear-cutting for Development for more information.