Neighborhood tree inventory surprising | Lifestyles

Neighborhood tree inventory surprising | Lifestyles

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During the first part of the summer, Trees For Goshen, a non-profit group initiated by the Goshen Tree Board, completed an inventory of most of the trees in the College Farm neighborhood. Though many small trees were included, seedlings certainly were not. Nor was every single arborvitae in privacy hedges, or each tree in tangles along fence rows. But by in large, every tree over 1-inch in diameter, and some that were smaller, was counted: a total of 699. To my knowledge, this is the first time such a comprehensive tree inventory has been completed at the neighborhood scale in Goshen.

It’s kind of a crazy thing to do.

The project was conceived and undertaken because residents in the College Farm neighborhood (located between Goshen College and Greencroft) have been quite interested in their trees, in caring for the existing ones, in planting new ones, and planning for the future of their trees. TFG was interested in finding a neighborhood to pilot an urban forest management plan — a plan that addresses the interests mentioned above — and an inventory of current trees is one of the cornerstones of such a plan. In order to know how to plan and plant for the future, you have to know what’s in the ground right now.

TFG doesn’t have the staff to carry out a neighborhood inventory on its own. So the Community Resilience Guild drafted a volunteer internship description for this work, posted it to Goshen College environmental science students through the Biology Department, and identified three students who were interested in the project. Aidan Friesen, Jose Chiquito, and Christian Gehman all contributed time — more than 65 percent of the total.

The work and the method was pretty straight forward: identify the species of trees and record their diameter. With these two basic pieces of data, information can be extrapolated about the life stage, life expectancy, canopy size (shade produced), and ecological benefits of trees. Condition of trees was not evaluated — this requires more training and experience than the work allowed.

The information about each tree is interesting by itself. Simply knowing the species of a tree can be enough to satisfy curiosity. But when all the information begins to accumulate, and the forest begins to emerge from the collection of individual trees – that’s when the data becomes really exciting. At least for a tree geek.

So here is what the College Farm neighborhood tree inventory data is beginning to reveal:

1) Only 23 percent of the trees are maple (Japanese maple, Norway maple, red maple, silver maple, sugar maple). This is really fascinating, given that our last ity-wide inventory of public trees (no private, backyard, side-yard trees included) showed 50% maple. This neighborhood is significantly different from the rest of the City, in a really good way, because its tree population is significantly more diverse. Diversity equals resilience equals health.

2) The calculated ecological benefits of the neighborhood’s 699 trees is more than $65K annually. For a neighborhood with 63 properties, that’s a value of $1,031 per property owner, per year. These values are measured in terms of energy use reductions, stormwater avoidance, CO2 sequestered, air pollution mitigation, and property value.

3) While the neighborhood appears to have a mature forest canopy, the largest trees represent a fraction of the overall population. In other words, most of the trees are small-growing species and young individuals of large-growing species. While these particular numbers still need to be crunched, the data seems to indicate that there is a viable generation of new trees growing up under the aging ones.

The inventory can be further teased to look at the tree population block by block. This will be especially interesting when comparing the most recently developed part of the neighborhood (in the last twenty years) to the rest of the neighborhood (roughly 60 years old). On the ground, the difference between the tree cover of these blocks is visible; what the data shows is that in fact, the more recently developed block has one of the highest tree populations, even though it is registering the lowest percentage of ecological benefits. This means that the trees in this block are either younger (and smaller, which makes sense) or are not good shade producers (spruce, arborvitae, small ornamental trees), or a combination of both. The inventory will make these connections clear.

The residents of College Farm neighborhood have been very willing to have this work done. They are participants in learning more about the living dynamics of the forest which they dwell in. Trees For Goshen is learning lots as well, and hopes to bring this kind of detailed forestry work to other neighborhoods in the future.

Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley is Goshen’s urban forester. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 537-0986

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