UA Campus Arboretum: Rooted in the Past, Growing Toward the Future

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Walking across the University of Arizona campus on a hot Tucson day, there may be no better respite than the shade of a welcoming tree. Yet, shelter from the desert sun isn't the only benefit provided by the nearly 8,000 trees on the main campus. A recent assessment shows the University's trees also have a significant environmental and financial impact on campus.

Taking into consideration factors like trees' contributions to managing storm water management, absorbing air pollution, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and more, the UA's Tree Benefits Assessment 2012 found that the campus forest provides approximately $272,997 in ecosystem benefits each year, with an average of $44.95 in benefits per tree. The cost to replace the entire collection would be more than $28 million.

The completion of the assessment coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the UA campus officially being recognized as an arboretum by the American Public Gardens Association in 2002.

"I'm so excited to have these numbers," said Tanya Quist, director of the Campus Arboretum, which is part of UA Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "It's one thing to walk on campus and have this sense of awe recognizing the history of the landscape, but quantitative data puts into perspective the relevance of these plants as part of our green infrastructure. These values allow us to calculate the return on investment and to guide appropriate landscape development that ensures we continue to have these benefits."

The data was collected by a team of four students from the School of Plant Sciences, who set out last spring to inventory more than 6,000 trees on the UA main campus. They input species information and trunk measurements into a software program called i-Tree, developed by the U.S. Forest Service. The program then generated information on each plant's impact on the University.

Andrew Hatch, the plant sciences senior who led the assessment team, said he gained a new appreciation for the campus landscape through the project.

"I knew the Campus Arboretum was pretty prestigious, but until you actually go out there and learn about all of these trees you don't really appreciate it," he said.

Read more from this October 29 UANews article at the link below.

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