Phenology, the Urban Forest, & Nature’s Notebook

by Theresa Crimmins, USA National Phenology Network; theresa@usanpn.org; @TheresaCrimmins and Dudley Hartel, Urban Forestry South, USDA Forest Service; dhartel@fs.fed.us; @treeobs

Urban foresters and urban forestry advocates are well suited for tracking recurring seasonal events such as leafing, flowering, and fruiting. The study of these phenomena is known as phenology. Adding this activity to your weekly routine has a lot to offer; this simple measurement can help you or your urban forester choose the best time to perform management activities, serve as an early warning indicator of trouble brewing among your trees, offer education and engagement opportunities, and support research. And, it’s fun!

Phenology observer Brian F. Powell
Phenology tracking can be done by urban foresters, tree lovers, and urban forest advocates. Photo by Brian F. Powell

Schedule management activities. Tracking phenological events such as leaf-out and leaf drop can be very informative for planning. For example, knowing when leaves are falling from different dominant tree species can help public works crews schedule street sweeping operations for maximum efficiency. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota are using residents’ observations of when different tree species are dropping their leaves to schedule street sweeping activities. Such well-timed removal keeps leaves out of storm drains, which improves water quality in city lakes and impoundments.

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New, Free UHI Guide to Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention

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Harrison Street bioswale in Syracuse by Ethan Dropkin

New from the Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) is Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions), a free 56-page guide by Ethan Dropkin and Nina Bassuk. The Guide includes an extensive suggested plant list with beautiful photos and helpful illustrations. It will be of interest to anyone working with vegetated filter strips, bioswales, rain gardens, specialized tree pits, and stormwater planters.

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Urban Forestry Award Winners

The DEC recognized the Arbor Day Poster Contest winner, 5th Grader Annika Chang from John Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack, accompanied here by her parents and NYS Urban Forestry Program Manager Mary Kramarchyk (right).

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens recognized award winners for their participation in urban forestry activities across the state at a ceremony held March 27, 2014 at the Downtown Albany Hilton Hotel. Communities and organizations meeting the standard requirements in the programs administered by DEC’s State Forester and the Arbor Day Foundation were recognized as a Tree City USA, Tree Campus USA, or a Tree Line USA.

The DEC contingent was at the 2014 Tree City, Tree Line, Tree Campus USA ceremony in support of the state’s urban forestry program and to recognize award winners. (L-R) Fran Sheehan, Lands and Forests Assistant Director; Bruce Williamson, Bureau Chief; Mary Kramarchyk, Program Manager; DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, Sally Kellogg, Program Assistant and State Forester Robert Davies.

The Department also recognized the Arbor Day Poster Contest winner, 5th Grader Annika Chang from John Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack.

“Urban forestry volunteers, students and industry professionals contribute their knowledge to enhance and maintain tree canopy in cities, village, towns, parks, college campuses and other public places,” said Commissioner Martens.

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Cross-Pollinating Urban Forestry

On March 4, NYSUFC President Andy Hillman attended the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) first-ever Urban Forest Council Steering Committee meeting. The other participating state councils were from NC, PA, WI, CO, and CA. Hillman says, “The meeting affirmed for me that our Council is part of a larger urban forestry movement that could benefit from more cross-pollination and sharing of ideas.”

In that spirit, it seems fitting that as our own NYSUFC blog launches, we check out the blogs and websites of other state urban forest councils. What are some of the most interesting and innovative things they are doing? 

Georgia Urban Forest Council | Sustaining Georgia’s green legacy by helping communities grow healthy trees. The Georgia Urban Forest Council has a well-developed, easy-to-navigate website with a blog on the home page. They have a Georgia ReLeaf “Donate” button right on the home page. Other nice touches: There is a tab that links to the American Grove blog, and a tab that goes to extensive pages on tree care.

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