Story and images by Mark McPherson, Executive Director of the Urban Forest Carbon Registry
The urban forests of the U.S. are long overdue to earn certified carbon credits. Carbon buyers purchased $700 million in carbon credits in the U.S. over the last decade ($4.5 billion worldwide). Yet not a single dollar of that money can go to the trees in the cities and towns of America.
Everyone in urban forestry knows the documented benefits of ecosystem services provided by trees in cities, yet urban forests receive relatively little funding as municipalities struggle to meet basic utility and human service needs. Furthermore, urban tree canopy is being lost in many cities due to growth and development.
The Urban Forest Carbon Registry (the Registry) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is working to make it possible for urban tree planting and preservation projects to earn and sell carbon credits. Money from the sale of the credits would go directly to the projects that earned those credits.
The Registry has developed practical carbon protocols for urban forestry projects. These protocols, one for tree planting and one for tree preservation, will be the “rulebooks” that projects must follow to earn certified credits.
The Registry assembled a drafting group of national stakeholders from many areas of urban forestry including Greg McPherson, Scott Maco, and Andy Trotter to address the quantification issues—as well as representatives of municipal forestry, non-profit tree organizations, utilities, transportation professionals, and watershed experts. You can view the protocols on the Registry website at www.ufregistry.org.
Save the Rain is Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s comprehensive program to improve the environment and clean Onondaga Lake by reducing the stormwater runoff that enters the sewer system. There is a combined sewer system in Syracuse, and during heavy rainfalls the system overflows into the tributaries of Onondaga Lake. Save the Rain utilizes innovative green and gray infrastructure to capture stormwater, preventing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improving water quality. The Save the Rain Tree Planting Program has planted over 6,300 trees that, among other ecological services, can soak up stormwater runoff.
Using data from the TreesCount! 2015 inventory, NYC Parks brings us the interactive New York City Street Tree Map, the world’s most extensive, accurate, and detailed tree map. With the Map, anyone can access data about any street tree in the City.
Users can learn about the inventory as a whole, including its quantifiable ecological benefits and predominant species, they can mark trees as favorites and share them with friends, and they can record their tree stewardship activities. They can find out ecological benefits of each individual tree; for instance, the Japanese pagoda tree at 213 E 73rd Street, provides the following benefits.
CityLab, from The Atlantic, published a nice article about the project. Author Laura Bliss reports that “For more than a year, some 2,300 volunteers helped park officials survey more than 685,000 street trees across all five boroughs, gathering stats on species, bark health, trunk width, latitude and longitude, and—this was new—GPS coordinates for every one.”
Some blog posts resonate long past their original publication date date. Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards” was one of the top five posts in 2015 and was the second most viewed post in 2016. Former NYC Director of Street Tree Planting Matt Stephens and Taking Root Editor Michelle Sutton coauthored this story questioning commonly held beliefs about “fall hazards,” mostly as it applies to B&B trees, but they also discuss the interaction of the fall season with other production methods, like bare root. Nina Bassuk helped craft the section called “The Five Branches of Transplanting Success,” which should be of interest to anyone planting trees.
Kristy King and NYC Forest Restoration: Dreaming Big for the City’s Natural Areas Many readers wanted to learn about the work of the NYC Natural Resources Group, which manages 5,000 acres of forested natural areas across the five boroughs of NYC, and about Director of Forest Restoration Kristy King. Her dream for NYC: “… that all forested areas are dominated by native species and that invasive species have been managed to the point that natural forest regeneration is occurring and that the public holistically values the natural resources in their area.”
NYSDEC Urban Forestry Intern Jennifer Kotary: Get to Know Her! Many blog readers were keen to know about this dynamic up-and-comer. “My internship research involved in-depth exploration of what communities are doing to protect and build green infrastructure across the state. Via Mary’s [Kramarchyk] assigned projects, I was able to produce tangible evidence that there is quite the statewide collective will to plant and nurture an expanding canopy as well as many career and volunteer opportunities to do so.”
SMA’s 2016 Urban Tree of the Year: Musashino Zelkova generated a lot of buzz. ‘Musashino’ has been a successful and popular street tree for many more years in Japan, proving itself useful as a narrow, upright form of zelkova. It can tolerate drought and heat and is pH adaptable and pollution tolerant. See a list of all the past SMA Urban Trees of the Year here.
Gary Raffel: Get to Know Him! Gary has served the Council in a variety of capacities, including as a board member. “I started Dynamic Tree Systems in 2002, offering general tree care service as well as Plant Health Care and Integrated Pest Management programs. I later wanted to find a niche in the industry and purchased a Tree Radar Unit at a time when there were only three of us in the U.S. and eleven people in the world using the equipment. A few years later I became the company’s international trainer, such that when a new unit was sold I would fly to the particular client and spend a week training them on their new equipment (I still do that, in addition to Dynamic Tree Systems).”
Trees for Tribs, as in tributaries, is a Department of Environmental Conservation program replanting New York’s streams. The program began in 2007 in the Hudson River Estuary and has since expanded statewide, working with partners across the state to plant native trees and shrubs for improved wildlife habitat, water quality, and storm resiliency.
The program works with private landowners, municipalities, schools, and conservation organizations, providing technical assistance, low- to no-cost native trees and shrubs, and tree tubes for planting sites. The program currently has coordinators on the ground in six watersheds (Champlain, Mohawk, Hudson Estuary, Croton, Upper Susquehanna, and lower Genesee). Trees for Tribs works with other organizations outside of these watersheds to coordinate projects on the ground.
You may have noticed that every summer the ReLeaf conference gets an infusion of youthful energy when members of the Onondaga Earth Corps attend. Here, we learn more about this Syracuse-based organization from OEC Program Coordinator and SUNY ESF grad Adrienne Canino. “OEC is a community organization dedicated to creating jobs for youth here in Syracuse and bringing people together to understand the value of trees in our city,” she says.
Here’s a terrific video about the range of activities OEC is involved with:
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC) honors ten “Frederick Law Olmsted Award” recipients who stepped up after the October 12-13, 2006 freak snowstorm in which more than 12,000 trees in the City’s Olmsted-designed park system were damaged by nearly 2 feet of snow. Here’s an excellent video about the storm, its aftermath, the Olmsted Award winners, and the current state of the urban forest that BOPC manages.
You’ll note one of the honorees is Re-Tree WNY, an all-volunteer group established on November 3, 2006 by a group of about 40 Western New York residents who wanted to respond to the devastation. The group, chaired by radio executive Paul Maurer, has planted 28,112 trees and is working toward its goal of 30,000 trees across the 18 Western NY municipalities affected by the storm. (The goal is expected to be reached by November, 2018.) Some of the other munis affected include Amherst, Williamsville, Tonawanda, Kenmore, Cheektowoga, and Clarence. They have all met their planting goals, with Buffalo not far behind. The 30,000 trees are in addition to replacement trees planted by the munis themselves.
Drs. Susan Day and Nina Bassuk have collaborated on a variety of research projects in the urban forest, with a special focus on soil remediation. Susan Day is an associate professor in the Virginia Tech Departments of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation and Horticulture, and longtime Council stalwart Nina Bassuk directs the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell.
Here, Susan Day summarizes her findings after ten years of researching Soil Profile Rebuilding (SPR), a technique that the urban forestry community will be hearing about! See also this post from 2014 about Nina Bassuk’s related soil amendment research.
Soil Profile Rebuilding: An Alternative to Soil Replacement
by Susan Downing Day
Urban foresters and their allies know poor soils can lead to an endless cycle of dieback and tree replacement. Even if trees do establish, growth can be underwhelming and tree health disappointing. Increasingly, project managers have been turning to soil replacement, where existing soils are excavated and removed and replaced with “recycled” or blended soils. These soils present their own challenges, however. For example, many imported blends rely on high sand contents to improve drainage, resulting in low water-holding capacity and drought stress for unirrigated plantings. Resulting sharp transitions in soil texture introduce the possibility of creating a “bath tub” effect in situations where it is impossible to replace all the soil and new soils are confined to the immediate vicinity of individual trees.
There is an alternative to soil replacement that is especially appropriate where there are extended open soil (unpaved) areas such as in street medians—soil rehabilitation. Soil rehabilitation can help restore important ecosystem functions such as stormwater transmission and vegetation support to existing native soils.
By Lori Brockelbank, NYSUFC Treasurer and Certified Arborist/Municipal Specialist, Wendel Companies
The first-ever Western NY CommuniTREE Stewardship Program instruction has come to a close for most of the participants, but the learning and experience continues. You can read more about the program’s mission and partners on this earlier blog post. Out of the 20 people that initially signed up for the course, 13 completed the classroom requirements.
At the conclusion of the classroom sessions, I will admit I had my doubts about whether the students had truly received enough training to go out on their own. I know personally I learn more when I get my hands dirty and I am in the field applying the classroom instruction. A few of the students expressed the same concerns; for this reason each student is required to volunteer 10 hours of supervised field time doing tree planting and/or small tree pruning in a variety of places throughout the City of Buffalo. This field work is a great chance for students to get further coaching and ask questions.
This story comes to us from Bronx River Alliance Deputy Director Maggie Greenfield and Natural Areas Conservancy Communications and Public Outreach Manager Nicole Brownstein.
The Bronx River has seen its fair share of history. It was first called the Aquehung, or “River of High Bluffs” by the local Native Americans. Two tribes, the Weckquaesgeek and Siwanoy, drank the river’s water, fished along its banks, and hunted in the surrounding woods. The river also held a spiritual significance for them and was a place for ritual baths each year. Jonas Bronck arrived in 1639, brokered a deal with the Native Americans for 500 acres along the river, and turned it into farmland.
Mills sprang up along the river, harnessing its energy and using it as a natural flowing sewer system. As the manufacturing industry fell into decline and the mills began to disappear, the river remained a dumping site for the surrounding communities. This was before we fully knew or cared about the effects of industrial and residential waste dumping.
It wasn’t until the environmental movement picked up in the mid-1970s that the restoration process began along the 23-mile river. In the late 1990s, the Bronx River Working Group was founded, with more than 60 community organizations and businesses combining efforts to orchestrate work along the river. The spirit of this effort led to the creation of the Bronx River Alliance, a group dedicated to restoring the waterway. When they began their work, these activists found objects as bizarre as refrigerators, tires, and even a wine press in the river. Today the river’s health is returning, evidenced by the long-awaited appearance of river herring, American eel, eastern oyster, and beavers. But our work is not yet done.