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​​​Tree Canopy Preservation

Charlotte is known as The City of Trees and is a leader in urban  canopy conservation when compared to other cities. The ​city is at 47% tree canopy with an aggressive yet realistic goal of 50% by 2020. TreesCharlotte and the City of Charlotte are working together with many other partners to enhance the City's tree canopy and ensure it is vigorous for generations to come.

​​​​Land Protection and Connectivity

Since the 2014 SOER Report, Park property has increased a total of 13% (to 20,400 acres) and of that, nature preserves have increased 5.5% (to 7600 acres) source:County GIS data. However, protected area is highly fragmented and lacking wildlife habitat corridors to connect individual areas. Without protected forested travel corridors for wildlife, animals are isolated and biodiversity decreases.  McDowell Creek greenway corridor in the northwest part of the county is the only protected corridor to and from large protected public land, but even this area is only 6 miles in length and fragmented by roads.  Improving strategies to provide and preserve more habitat corridors will promote survival and biodiversity of the County's dwindling yet valuable natural resources.

landcover class 1992-2011.JPG               

The maps above show changes in land use from 1992 to 2011. This illustration shows obvious conversion of forest and agricultural land to urban landscape, meaning the county has seen a significant loss of natural tree canopy and forest habitat. It is critical that forests and open space are preserved and protected, not only for human health and recreation, but also to ensure clean drinking water and resilient natural areas.

Land Use Changes: Preservation vs. Not


Lattasidebyside.jpg Left: Latta Plantation 1938 before protection Right: Latta Plantation 2016 after protection

No Preservation:

TorrenceCreek.jpg Left: Torrence Creek 1938 agriculture and forest  Right: Torrence Creek 2016 housing development

​​3 Ways to Help Land Protection and Planning in Mecklenburg County:

  1. Support Public Habitat Corridor Preservation​
  2. Visit a County Nature Preserve
  3. Travel the Greenway



Restore and/or Maintain All Natural C​​ommunities

​​​​​​​​Park and Recreation's Natural Resources Section has a goal to​ ensure the regions long-term biodiversity, and is charged to conserve and protect the viability of listed species.

​The tree canopy is important to urban communities because…
    • ​​Provides benefits like improved water and air quality
    • Saves energy
    • Makes for cooler summer temperatures
    • Increases property value
​​Learn More about Non-Native Invasive Species…
    • Past land uses in the Piedmont such as agriculture and travel corridors like I-85 have played a large role in how non-native invasive species have invaded our landscapes
    • This area is some of the most infested in the entire United States
    • Unwanted species push out native plants and animals making the landscape less healthy for wildlife and less resilient to threats such as diseases and extreme weather

Mecklenburg County's Biggest Non-Native Species Invaders:autumn olive.JPG

Photo credit:  Gary Marshall, Mecklenburg Park & Rec​.

Learn More About: autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

Learn More About: Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense)

Map of Nationwide Forest Plant Invasion Intensity A subcontinental view of forest plant invasions.jpg

Forest plant invasion intensity (percent of forested plots with an invasive plant recorded for a given county based on FIA sampling) for the United States including estimates of region-wide invasion intensity. From: Oswalt CM, Fei S, Guo Q, Iannone III BV, Oswalt SN, Pijanowski BC, Potter KM (2015) A subcontinental view of forest plant invasions. NeoBiota 24: 49–54. doi: 10.3897/neobiota.24.8378


Mecklenburg County Biodiversity:

 Despite rapid urbanization, Mecklenburg County is fortunate to have​ biodiversity…

    • 309 species of birds
    • 46 species of mammals
    •  40 species of reptiles
    •  24 species of amphibians
    •  72 species of fish
    •  84 species of dragonflies and damselflies
    •  94 species of butterflies Learn More about Monarchs
    • ​​817 species of moths

Monarch Butterfly- Credit NCWF.jpg 

Photo credit: Angel Hjarding/North Carolina Wildlife Federation​


Despite this biodiversity, some species are in peril…

​State or Federally Endangered Species Found in M​ecklenburg County ​ ​
Threatened/Endangered Species (T&E Species): US Status* NC Status* Found on County Nature Preserve?
Schweinitz's sunflower (Helianthus schweinitzii)EEYes
Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum)CTYes
Smooth coneflower (Echinacea laevigata)EEYes
Carolina prairie-trefoil (Acmispon helleri)FSCSC-VYes
Piedmont aster (Eurybia mirabilis)   FSCSR-TNo
Sweet pinesap (Monotropsis odorata)FSCSC-VYes
Prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum)SR-PYes
Checkered white (Pontia protodice)SR Yes
Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)TYes
Oldfield mouse (Permomyscus polionotus)SC Yes
Glade wild quinine (Parthenium auriculatum)SR-TYes
Northern cup-plant (Silphium perfoliatum)TYes
Glade milkvine (Matelea decipiens) SR-PYes
Dissected toothwort (Cardamine dissecta) SC-VYes
Crested coralroot (Hexalectris spicata) SR-PNo
Prairie anemone (Anemone caroliniana) ENo
*E – Endangered, T – Threatened, C – Candidate, FSC - Federal Species of Concern, SC-V – Special  Concern-Vulnerable, SR-P or T - Significantly Rare (Peripheral or Throughout) ​ ​ ​



Photo Credit: Lenny Lampel

3 Ways to Help Forest and Nature Health in Mecklenburg County:

  1. Remove your Non-Native Plants
  2. Use local firewood
  3. Plant Milkweed



Reconnecting People to Nature

    • ​​​​​​The County has an ambitious goal to develop 100 miles of Greenway trail by 2020​:​​
    • As of 2016 there are 47 miles of trails that can be used for alternative transportation
    • 100 additional miles are ready for trail​s
    • Development and population growth in the County need to be balanced with protection of​ our environment


​​​This graph shows the 100 mile goal by 2020 still has not been met. As of 2010, we had 52 miles of greenway built, just over halfway to the 2020 goal.

Warmer Weather Benefits:

    •  Landowners are encouraged to use prescribed fire as a management tool in order to reduce wildfire risks
    • Good fire helps with disease and pest control, fertilizes the soil and promotes lush vegetation for habitat and forage
    • Mecklenburg County has several rare plant species that depend on fire for survival


This graph shows the increase in nature preserve acres treated with prescribed fire from 2005-2016. In the last eleven years, the county has increased their prescribed fire use by 700%.


This graph shows that despite sharp rises and falls in burned acreage per year, there is a steady trend rising, indicating an increase in overall acreage burned per year in the United States.


Warmer Weather Drawbacks:

​​Potential Impacts to Creatures
    • Exacerbates encroachment of non-native pests and threatens some of our native wildlife
    • Marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) is a native salamander that breeds in temporary fishless ponds called vernal pools
    • Warmer temperatures and increased periods of drought could affect the timing and amount of water in the pools, which could negatively impact breeding success of these salamanders

MarbledSalamander Credit Kevin Metcalf.jpgPhoto credit: Kevin Metcalf, Mecklenburg Park and Rec​.    

​​Impact on Oak Hickory Forests:
    • Species mig​ration has naturally occurred for millennia, but a rapid change in environmental conditions can present challenges to many plant communities and the animals that depend on them
    • More frequent hotter temperatures combined with increased periods of drought will stress our native hardwood and pine forests, making them more susceptible to bugs, disease, and wildfires
    • You can help protect your property by having drought-tolerant native plants in your yard
    • Less grass and more healthy trees help with water run-off, require less watering and healthy native plants are less susceptible to insects and disease
    • Support prescribed fire use
    • ​When used properly, prescribed fires help protect forests from wildfire, and is a natural way to keep forests healthy and resilient

3 Ways to help Nature and Climate Change in Mecklenburg County:

  1. Clean Commute – Leave your car at home
  2. Plant a Native Tree
  3. Only One Fridge! Energy Production is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas production. Americans are using less energy due to efficient homes and appliances, but homes are getting larger and more people have more appliances and electronics.  According to USEIA, ¼ of all homes have at least two refrigerators!​​

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