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CALS Helps NYC Plant Trees

By Liz Borod Wright ’99

Debbie Lay

Debbie Lay ’08, in Keith Tidball’s course Urban Environments: A Service Learning Course in New York City to Foster Urban Socio-Ecological Systems Resilience, planted trees in New York City.

Natural Resources graduate students are working shoulder to shoulder with CALS researchers to help urban forestry grow stronger roots in New York City. Christine Moskell is working with associate professor of natural resources Shorna Broussard Allred to find out what motivates volunteers to participate in urban forestry, while Alex Kudryavtsev is looking at how environmental restoration and environmental education can enhance residents’ sense of place.

So far, 315,678 trees have been planted in New York City as part of the MillionTreesNYC program, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s citywide, public-private initiative to plant one million trees in the city by 2017. And only 694,322
to go.

Cornell researchers—with funding from the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future (CCSF) and Cornell Civic Ecology Lab (CEL)—are playing a major role in making it happen by working with other New York City partners to develop the research agenda for the large-scale urban forestry project.

On March 5 and 6, for example, they helped organize a research symposium at the New School that attracted more than 200 environmental scientists and practitioners. The Cornell scientists presented their work about tree survival and community participation in urban forests.

Marianne Krasny, CALS professor and chair of the Department of Natural Resources and director of CEL, presented a paper that she and Keith Tidball, associate director of CEL, wrote on how environmental education can contribute to the success of the MillionTreesNYC program.

“Environmental education does not only include taking kids outside the city to a more natural area, but also can become part of civic ecology practices already taking place in the city, such as the tree planting activities of hundreds of urban stewardship groups across New York City,” Krasny says.

Other Cornell presentations included research on growing trees surrounded by concrete, survival rates of young street trees, public reactions to new street-tree planting, and the benefits of using trees for stormwater management.

“Cornell is the land-grant university for New York state. Most of the state’s residents live in cities, and cities are increasingly being viewed as having a critical role in the future of sustainability and climate change,” said Tidball, a faculty fellow of CCSF.