Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guest Article - Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Community Forestry Outreach

Illinois is full of dedicated people and innovative ideas for addressing invasive species. From time to time, this blog is going to host guest articles in which the stories about some of these people, projects, or ideas are told. The next article in this series comes from Jennifer Behnken, Urban and Community Forester with the Community Forestry Outreach Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  Jennifer writes here about the Community Forestry Outreach Program and how it addresses invasive species in Illinois. All of the guest articles can be viewed HERE.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Community Forestry Outreach
by Jennifer Behnken, Urban and Community Forester

Forest planning and management are instrumental in monitoring conditions, taking stock of species age and composition, and making informed decisions toward reaching specified goals and objectives. Urban forestry is an vital element of landscaping planning, yet commonly overlooked by municipality members. In some ways, trees in an urban landscape have greater positive impacts and direct benefits since populated areas are usually subject to harsher environmental conditions.

Urban forestry includes all trees in municipal settings, including parks, schools, cemeteries, right-of-ways (or street trees), trees around businesses, and trees right in your own backyard. Trees do not understand property boundaries between public and private sectors and thus, generate benefits to all members of a community, either directly or indirectly. Additionally, trees are an essential component to a community's green infrastructure by providing a variety of ecosystem services and deserve a planned and programmatic approach to an urban forest's development and maintenance.

Trees provide a wide variety of benefits, serving a valuable function within society. These benefits are broken down into three categories: (1) environmental, (2) social, and (3) economical. Environmentally, trees are an excellent water and air filtration unit. They uptake additional stormwater runoff as well as assist in erosion control, especially in disturbed, non-vegetated soils. They sequester carbon, regulate temperatures with their shade and reduce the heat island effect. Trees supply food, shelter, and homes to urban wildlife and serve as corridor through fragmented areas.

Socially, trees encourage community interaction through increased recreational and educational opportunities and connectivity to the outdoors. They provide a sense of privacy (e.g. wind break), decrease in criminal activity, and promote a sense of peace. Studies show that people are less stressed when exposed to trees and recovery times from health concerns are decreased. Overall, trees improve the image of a community. Economically, tree serve as an attractant to local tourism and job creation. Businesses with trees potentially generate more revenue as well as increase property values. Their regulating temperatures save power and decrease utility bills while increased water uptake decreases stress on stormwater systems.

While budget allocations need to be established for tree care, maintenance, and management, trees remain a valuable asset in a community. Increased efficiency and tree longevity in the long-term equal reduced costs. Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Community Forestry Outreach provides free assistance to communities throughout the state of Illinois to reach these types of urban forestry goals. This assistance can help communities move towards sustainable management of their urban forests, despite limited personnel and financial resources. Participation and implementation of effective tree management practices empowers communities to promote urban forest health and awareness and encourages volunteer efforts. Adapting management techniques and long-term maintenance ensures that community receive the full benefits of trees while supporting other planning goals in sync with the community's vision.

SIUC Community Forestry Outreach
Tree Planting Seminar
 SIUC Community Forestry Outreach helps municipalities develop and establish urban forestry practices by assisting with management plans (i.e. pruning, planting, removal, monitoring, etc.), conducting tree inventories, forming tree boards, drafting tree ordinances, organizing volunteer events, such as tree plantings, hosting educational seminars and events, and presenting workshops addressing a variety of urban forestry topics. Promoting the "right tree in the right place" and generating awareness endorses efficient management methods while supporting tree health and vitality, thereby connecting communities with their urban forests.

Invasive species management is a essential factor of urban forestry management. Just like the trees, invasive species know no boundaries between property jurisdictions. Urban settings are also prime areas of disturbance between construction projects, street maintenance, mowing, and other digging practices in parks and backyards, making them ground zero and ripe for invasive species habitat. Additionally, many invasive species originate from ornamentals that are commonly planted in urban landscapes (if not already prohibited to sell or plant). Other pests, such as the Emerald Ash Borer, take advantage of our native trees, such as ash trees, by using them as hosting grounds, wreaking havoc to the ash population in the process.

Outreach efforts bring to light invasive species impacts, including their ecological and economical consequences. Public presentations and publications empower people to identify these species, eradicate existing populations, and consider other planting decisions that support native habitats, or at least non-invasive exotics. Ash tagging is one example of rallying citizens into emerald ash borer awareness. Ash trees are tagged to demonstrate ash tree inventory in proportion to other tree species and the amount of risk that a community faces in losing tree canopy coverage once the emerald ash borer attacks an area. The dialogue below is an example of signage that would be posted on ash tree:
Alert: This is an ash tree!

It is one of 7.5 billion ash trees throughout the country and many ash trees in Pittsfield. All ash trees in Illinois are at risk of an emerald ash borer attack. The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a beetle that bores under the bark of ash trees and eventually kills them.

Many communities in the Midwest have lost hundreds or even thousands of ash trees because of the beetle. EAB was discovered in northern Illinois in 2006. EAB has not yet been identified in Pittsfield but is expected to arrive very soon. The Pittsfield Tree Board, with the help of high school students, is tagging all ash trees on public property to raise awareness in the community about EAB and the destruction it causes.

How can you help? 
  • Don’t move firewood - This will help slow the spread of the beetle.
  • Spread the word. Tell your neighbors and friends about EAB.
  • Determine if you have ash trees in your yard or on your block.
  • Keep an eye on the news, so you can learn when EAB does arrive.

Ash Tagging

 The goal is to institute a grassroots awareness and eventually administer these suggestions into city-wide planning. Tree planting lists in city ordinances is an example of how municipalities enforce tree planting regulations. Cities develop a list of tree species approved for public right-of-way plantings, such as oak, dogwood, redbud, hawthorn, maple, bald cypress, kentucky coffeetree, and other native species while banning other species, such as bradford pear, tree-of-heaven, and princess tree.

Another project in action is developing a demonstration plot of native tree species to employ as alternatives to callery pear (mother of the bradford or cleveland pear trees). This particular species is widely overused in landscaping for its desirable shape and spring flowers. While bradford pear trees were bred to be sterile, cross pollination with other callery pear cultivars has allowed this species to escape and form infestations. Our goal with this demonstration plot is to show consumers and city planners there are other viable options that are environmentally friendly and still have comparable prices for private and public budgets. Origins of this idea stem from a successful program and demonstration area in Columbia, MO in with the Parks and Recreation division and the Missouri Department of Conservation: http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/ParksandRec/Parks_and_Facilities/stopthespread.php

The demonstration plot will be planted in conjunction with the Carbondale Parks District at Attucks Park and Green Earth at the Pyles Fork Preserve, a non-profit organization in Carbondale whose mission is to preserve natural areas for public use within the city. While the project is still in development, other partners include the Illinois Native Plant Society, University of Illinois Extension, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We are seeking tree and planting material (e.g. mulch) donations and recruiting volunteers to help with the actual planting. Signage will be placed at a later date with information about the effects of planting callery pear cultivars, the benefits of choosing the alternative species on display, and a description about trees themselves.

First Detector students learning about invasive ornamental plants
For further information about discovering how community trees work for you, visit http://www.treebenefits.com/calculator/. Test the environmental and economical value of your tree by visiting this site to obtain an estimation of its benefits on annual basis. Do your part by monitoring for invasive species encroachment, maintain a healthy and productive forest, and plant trees!

Additional Resources:


Jennifer Behnken
Urban & Community Forester
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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