Front Beach in Ocean Springs is barren compared to years ago, absent of the homes and countless trees that once adorned the coastline.
"A lot of people refer to it as green infrastructure," Donna Yowell, executive director of the Mississippi Urban Forest Council said.
Yowell says the live oaks that once filled South Mississippi are crucial to the recovery, for both the environment and the economy.
"For every dollar that's invested in trees, it provides another $4.50 benefit, such as air quality, water quality, visual beauty, and a number of other benefits," Yowell said.
Hurricane Katrina was traumatic for trees on the coast, but now experts say those trees are fighting a bigger battle. Parts of the rebuilding process could be killing the trees from the roots up.
"Think below the grass, you're not just looking at the trunk of the tree and the canopy of a tree," forester Glenn Hughes said.
Forester says homeowners and developers must take responsibility for the trees we have left.
Just take a look at Ocean Springs City Hall: From adding too much fill, to surrounding the trees with concrete, Hughes says even parking cars and heavy machinery near trees can devastate the roots underground.
"We've got the root system below the ground, and that's feeding the tree. If we compromise that root system, then we're going to kill that tree. Nothing we can do to the trunk of the tree or the canopy of the tree is going to make a difference," Hughes said.
Hughes says someday, there will be another Katrina. But taking simple steps now can help strengthen one of South Mississippi's most precious resources for centuries to come.
Officials suggest contacting a local arborist for advice on how to take care of your current trees or for suggestions on the species that would be suitable for your yard.
By Keli Rabon
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