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Using Urban Design To Combat Climate Change

A busy Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill.
Town of Chapel Hill

Forestry experts and urban designers are gathering in Raleigh this week to discuss the effects of climate change on the urban landscape. The North Carolina Urban Forestry Conference is centered on how to design city spaces to cope with and help prevent rising temperatures.

It's not just about finding more places for shade trees (though that's something forestry types would certainly applaud). Scientists are also considering how to combat an increase in pests that prey on trees not suited for greater temperatures.

"Increased number of pests are becoming more and more common on urban trees just because they're stressed due to the downtown temperatures and heat," said Leslie Moorman, Executive Director of the NC Urban Forestry Council. "Insects normally wouldn't impact the tree if the tree was in a more natural environment, cause they have mechanisms in place and they're strong enough and healthy enough to battle it."

Moorman says that downtown Raleigh routinely posts temperatures 10 degrees higher than its surrounding suburban areas, due largely to the amount of pavement and a lack of urban forests.

But even out in the 'burbs, there's an increasing need for forestry to cope with new laws and environmental changes. For example, officials have gotten more strict over the years as to what developers can do with storm-water runoff. It's not acceptable to drain into other communities anymore.

"There are new techniques, new tools, new species, new technologies out there that developers, builders, and planners can use, on-site, to keep the storm water there," said Moorman.  "And one of those tools is the use of trees and vegetation."

The conference runs through Friday.

Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff. Also, features and commentary not by any one reporter.
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