Suburban sprawl could destroy up to 34 million acres of forests, says new study

Kaid Benfield, Director, Sustainable Communities, Washington, DC

Scientists at the US Forest Service and partners at universities, non-profits and other agencies predict that urban and developed land areas in the US will increase 41 percent by 2060.  Forested areas will be most impacted by this expansion, with losses ranging from 16 to 34 million acres in the lower 48 states.  The agency highlighted the results of a new study in a press release issued last month.

The researchers also concluded that, over the long-term, climate change could have significant effects on water availability, making the US potentially more vulnerable to water shortages, especially in the Southwest and Great Plains.  Population growth in more arid regions will require more drinking water.  Recent trends in agricultural irrigation and land­scaping techniques also will boost water demands.

The assessment’s projections respond to a set of scenarios with varying assumptions about domestic population and economic growth, global population and economic growth, global wood energy consumption and US land use change from 2010 to 2060.