Meet the NYC Natural Areas Conservancy 2017 Summer Field Interns

NAC summer interns 2017

NYC’s Natural Areas Conservancy welcomed nine summer field interns from the City University of New York (CUNY). Over the course of eight weeks, the CUNY teams are studying NYC’s ecological health in 12 parks in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

Led by Conservancy ecologists, the students are collecting data on plants and soil to help direct improvement of natural areas citywide. You can watch their progress and learn more about their findings by following The Natural Areas Conservancy on social media. The Conservancy thanks the Leon Levy Foundation, Lise Strickler, and Mark Gallogly for supporting this program.

Meet the interns:  

Photo taken at Marine Park, Brooklyn

Front row: Irina Arias (environmental engineering); Uziel Crescenzi (landscape architecture); Kenia Pittman (landscape architecture); Brian Stonaker (biology); Merna Youssef (physics and mathematics); Stephanie Cando (biology).

Back row: Renee Montelbano (urban sustainability); Rafael Arias (environmental engineering); Harmanveer Singh (environmental science and urban studies).

UHI Research Conclusions: Scoop & Dump Soil Remediation Strategy

In their recent paper in Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, “Long-Term Remediation of Compacted Urban Soils by Physical Fracturing and Incorporation of Compost,” study authors Miles Sax, Nina Bassuk, Harold van Es, and Don Rakow published their findings after twelve years of applied research. The technique, “Scoop & Dump Soil Remediation,” was introduced in a previous Council blog post about Urban Horticulture Institute research.

From the Urban Forestry and Urban Greening paper’s Abstract:

On the Cornell University campus a long-term study has measured the impacts of a soil remediation strategy on plant growth and soil quality using the Cornell Soil Health Test. The Scoop & Dump (S&D) process of soil remediation consists of physically fracturing compacted urban soils, incorporating large quantities (33% by volume) of compost with the use of a backhoe, and annually top dressing with mulch. This study was designed to investigate the impact of this remediation technique for the amelioration of compaction and degradation of soils in the urbanized environment.

From the Urban Forestry and Urban Greening paper’s Conclusion:

The authors found that the Scoop & Dump method of soil remediation showed improvement in soil quality indicators – bulk density, resistance, aggregate stability, potentially mineralizable nitrogen, active carbon and organic matter content – compared to unamended sites. Over a period of 12 years, soil quality indicators – bulk density, active carbon and potentially mineralizable nitrogen – improved over time showing long-term beneficial effects of using the Scoop & Dump Technique.

The application of the Scoop & Dump soil remediation strategy is an appropriate method for restoring soils damaged by heavy equipment, building construction and urbanization impacts. With minimal annual maintenance including the addition of shredded bark mulch, these improvements in soil quality are maintained or enhanced over time. This technique offers a practical, research-based tool for green industry professionals, arborists and landscape contractors and has a strong potential for improving soil quality using locally sourced materials and sustainable methods.

Citation:
Sax, M.S., Bassuk, N., van Es, H., Rakow, D., Long-Term Remediation of Compacted Urban Soils by Physical Fracturing and Incorporation of Compost, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening (2017),  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.03.023

Dr. Ed Gilman on Semi-Retirement, the Research Trail He Leaves Behind, and the Nexus of Urban Forestry and Arboriculture

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Ed and Betsy Gilman, married 37 years, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge on a visit to NYC.

Dr. Ed Gilman is a popular presenter among NY arborists and members of our state’s U&CF community, giving talks based on his decades of applied research at the University of Florida (UFL) and countless field observations and conversations with arborists. Gilman retired from UFL in July but— happily for our industry—he is going to continue doing education in the field, especially with commercial arborists around proper pruning techniques. The resources he created on UFL’s website for pruning and all things related to trees and other landscape plants are phenomenal—more about those later.

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The Gilmans’ Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house on the St. John’s River in Jacksonville

How is the transition to semi-retirement going?
Ed Gilman: Retirement allowed me to step back and take a break from writing; after 120 scientific publications and 35 years of tearing trees apart, I felt it was someone else’s turn. I’ll have more time now to do education in the field with commercial arborists—sharing the practical fruits of my research and that of my colleagues, which I really enjoy. I stay involved with ISA Florida and with the ANSI Pruning Standards committee. It’s nice to remain plugged in and relevant. What would be particularly gratifying is if I could get more people doing what I’m doing in terms of the education of commercial arborists. Stay tuned for more on that.

Read more…

Street Tree Diversity in Three Northeastern U.S. States

IMG_8973Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director Nina Bassuk and Dept of Horticulture Post-doctoral Associate Fred Cowett recently published a paper called “Street Tree Diversity in Three Northeastern U.S. States” in Arboriculture & Urban Forestry, the scientific journal of the International Society of Arboriculture. What follows is the abstract, and the full paper is here.

Abstract. Street tree diversity is widely viewed as a key component in the resilience of street tree populations to pests, diseases, and climate change. Assessment of street tree diversity is considered integral to sustainable street tree management and preservation of the ecosystem services and social benefits that street trees provide. This paper assesses street tree diversity in three northeastern U.S. states— New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania—by analyzing municipal street tree inventory data stratified by the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. Despite the lesson learned from the historical devastation of overplanted American elms (Ulmus americana) by Dutch elm disease, and awareness of the contemporary threats posed to ashes (Fraxinus spp.) by the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) and to maples (Acer spp.), and other tree genera by the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), results presented here indicate a current concentration of street trees among a relatively small number of species and genera, and in particular the dominance of maples as street trees. Results also show a positive relationship between street tree diversity and warmer average minimum winter temperatures. Consequently, there is a clear need in all three states for greater species and genus diversity in statewide and municipal street tree populations. However, meaningful impediments exist to increasing street tree diversity, especially in the short term.

Top Seven Blog Posts of 2016

Our Council’s blog was viewed more than 19,500 times in 2016! Here are the year’s seven most-viewed posts.

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Blight-resistant chestnut seedlings. Photo by Allen Nichols

Over a thousand people read Participate in the Reintroduction of the American Chestnut … by Simply Planting a Few Nuts. “Now comes the part of getting the blight-resistant trees into the forest. That is where you come in! We need people all over NY and in other states to plant pure wild American chestnuts so they have trees to cross with our blight-resistant tree, when it is approved for release, hopefully in the next few years.” -Allen Nichols, President of the American Chestnut Foundation, New York Chapter

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B&B trees in transport. Photo by Matt Stephens

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 in India
Kristy King in India

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.”

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Jennifer Kotary at her SUNY ESF Ranger School graduation.

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.”

Rochester UFMP

From Scottsville to Long Beach: Urban Forest Master Plans, Management Plans, and Reports introduced blog readers to the growing compendium of Urban Forest plans and reports on the Council’s website. Communities creating or re-envisioning their master plans can survey what’s already been done in New York and use these plans as templates. NYS EPF (aka Cost-Share) Urban Forestry Grant funds are available for management plans or master plans, provided these plans include a specific work schedule made up of goals, tasks, and a timeline. Go to link above > Browse > DEC > 2016 Urban and Community Forestry Grants Program (Round 13)- Tree Planting or Tree Maintenance Projects.

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Zelkova ‘Musashino’ Courtesy J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

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.

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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).”

 

 

What is Soil Profile Rebuilding? Susan Day Explains.

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This site is a good candidate for Soil Profile Rebuilding (SPR) because soil is compacted and has an impermeable layer that can likely be broken up by the backhoe subsoiling process. Note limestone gravel mixed in soil indicates pH will be high, which will not be altered by the rehabilitation process. Surface gravel should be removed if possible and underground infrastructure clearly marked. Photo by Susan D. Day

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.

Read more…

Support Lori Brockelbank’s Fourth Tour des Trees to Benefit the TREE Fund

Lori Brockelbank (second from left) with fellow NYS riders.
Lori Brockelbank (second from left) with fellow NYS riders. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

October 9-15, 2016, cyclists will experience a week of unforgettable scenery, cycling and camaraderie as the Tour des Trees rolls through the Piedmont region of North and South Carolina, starting and ending in Charlotte, NC. 

Tree plantings and community engagement are hallmarks of every Tour, and Professor Elwood Pricklethorn (aka Toronto arborist and veteran Tour cyclist Warren Hoselton) provides educational programs for young audiences along the way. The Tour also adds new trees to the growing urban forest planted by its cyclists.

Since 1992, the Tour des Trees has grown to become the largest fundraiser for tree research and education in the world. In 2015, it generated over $340,000 that will be used to support a variety of research projects and educational programs for budding tree care professionals. 

Lori Brockelbank: 

Four years ago, I embarked upon my first journey with the Stihl Tour des Trees to benefit the TREE (Tree Research and Education Endowment) Fund. I could not have known how much of an impact that one week would have on my life. I remember how hard that first tour was—I never knew my knees could hurt that bad from just pedaling a bicycle. I am happy to say that through three bike tours, my fellow bike riders became among my dearest friends. We have encouraged and learned from each other. The biggest lesson I have learned is that it’s okay to ask for help—and sometimes the nicest people will come along and help you without you even asking.

Read more…

Participate in the Reintroduction of the American Chestnut … by Simply Planting a Few Nuts

By Allen Nichols, President of The American Chestnut Foundation, New York Chapter

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Allen Nichols doing a chestnut planting demonstration with a home school group in Plattsburgh, NY.

I became aware of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) when my father pointed out the remains of dead trees to me when I was just a boy. I was aware of the resprouts that keep coming up and then dying back from the blight. Then, when I was a teenager I witnessed the death of all the great American elms on our farm, which gave me a vision of what must have happened when the Chestnut blight killed all the chestnuts 50+ years earlier. I think that the devastation to ash trees today by Emerald Ash Borer and ash yellows and decline is giving the next generation a glimpse of what has happened in the past.

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Nichols with a large 20″ DBH American chestnut he located last fall. It is severely blighted, the top is dead, and you can see the bark falling off the tree at the top of the photo.

Twenty five years ago, Herb Darling along with several others established the NY chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) to work with SUNY-ESF in Syracuse. The goal of researchers at ESF was to try to use the newest technology to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut. Their progress has been phenomenal, as you can see in this video. (Note that we have progressed beyond the stage in the video, to where we have confirmed resistance in our tree and are applying for approval to release it to the public. Also, there’s a section unrelated to the American chestnut that you need to skip past).

Now comes the part of getting the blight-resistant trees into the forest. That is where you come in! We need people all over NY and in other states to plant pure wild American chestnuts so they have trees to cross with our blight-resistant tree, when it is approved for release, hopefully in the next few years.

Read more…

Top Five Blog Posts of 2015

Our Council blog was viewed more than 14,000 times in 2015! Here are the top five posts:

NYC Urban Forester Sumana Serchan

Sumana Serchan: Get to Know Her! Sumana Serchan is an urban forester with NYC Parks and Recreation. Sumana has a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources/Conservation from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (University of Vermont). She grew up in Kathmandu City, Nepal.

 

 

 

B&B trees on truck Matthew Stephens
Photo by Matt Stephens

Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards” 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.

 

 

 

 

Biotope 18: Landscape, Wireless, Tree bed > 54”A New Method for Streamlining Tree Selection in NYC  Council President and NYC Parks Senior Forester David Moore shares how the City streamlined its system for making tree species selections for 25,000 street tree plantings a year using an ingenious categorization of “biotopes.” A municipality of any size can use this article to think strategically about their tree selection process.

 

 

 

 

Ithaca UFMPIthaca’s Urban Forest Master Plan: A Template for Other Munis Looking for a template as you craft or revise your community’s urban forest master plan (UFMP)? Ithaca once again leads the way. The newly revised document includes a master plan, tree inventory data, and arboricultural guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Longtime Council President Andy Hillman (l) handed the torch to David Moore at ReLeaf 2015.

A Releaf to Remember Part I in a series of pictorials about the awesome 2015 ReLeaf Conference at SUNY ESF. Close behind was the inspiring Reflections from Incoming President David Moore

 

 

Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards”

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B&B trees dug properly—i.e., when dormant. Photo by Matthew Stephens

by NYC Parks Director of Street Tree Planting Matthew Stephens and Taking Root Editor Michelle Sutton

We coauthored this story questioning commonly held beliefs about “fall hazards,” mostly as it applies to B&B trees, but we also discuss the interaction of the fall season with other production methods, like bare root. The section, “The Five Branches of Transplanting Success,” should be of interest to anyone planting trees, period!  With the help of Nina Bassuk and others, we tried to break down the complex interactions at work with transplanting. This article originally ran in Arbor Age (Fall 2015).  

The nursery industry is reluctant to dig certain species of trees in the fall, yet the “fall hazards” lists can vary significantly among nurseries. Also varying is the experience of nursery customers, including city foresters who plant hundreds or thousands of trees each year. In addition to digging season, there are other interacting factors at play in the fall planting picture.

A More Nuanced Look
Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director and street tree expert Dr. Nina Bassuk says, “Those fall hazards lists are generalizations. Typically the trees that appear on those lists are trees that are more difficult to transplant, period. In spring they don’t become easy to transplant; they’re just observed to be easier in the spring than in the fall.”

Tree Pittsburgh Director of Urban Forestry Matthew Erb has overseen the planting of more than 25,000 trees (mostly B&B) since 2008. “I’m sure if you look hard enough, you will find nearly every species on someone’s fall hazard list,” he says.

Read more…