The University of Maryland’s Center for Agro-Ecology has recently completed and issued a report on the state of Maryland’s forests and trees. Using high-resolution aerial surveys, the study shows continuing forest loss statewide of roughly 6,000 acres a year from 1999 through 2019. These losses come despite local and state forest conservation laws. A major cause of loss is development with another being transition to wetlands in coastal areas subject to sea level rise. A companion analysis found that Priority Funding Areas for development were more vulnerable to tree canopy loss, further indicating development as an important driver of loss.
In addition to absolute loss, forest cover is becoming increasingly fragmented. New tree plantings do not replace the deep woods habitat needed for some plants, birds, and animals to survive. Fragmentation also allows invasive vines and insects to thrive and reduces the lands’ capacity to absorb carbon and soak up polluted storm runoff.
The full report can be found at https://agnr.umd.edu/technical-study-changes-forest-cover-and-tree-canopy-maryland The study was conducted at the request of the Maryland General Assembly. Legislation is likely to be introduced in the upcoming session to address forest and tree loss.