Tree Certification Reflects Tech's Canopy Commitment
In January, as thirteen new trees were being planted in Tech's Triangle green space in the center of campus, the Institute was also earning its eleventh year of Tree Campus USA Certification. The plantings and the certification are both a testament to Georgia Tech's commitment to expanding its tree canopy to provide vital environmental services to the city at large.
"By committing to maintain and grow our tree canopy, Georgia Tech is contributing to a cooler and more resilient city," explained Dr. Brian Stone, professor in the School of City and Regional Planning and director of the Urban Climate Lab. Georgia Tech’s 2010 Landscape Master Plan included a goal to increase the tree canopy to more than 50 percent. At last count, the campus was at 38 percent coverage.
"Tree Campuses set examples for not only their student bodies but the surrounding communities, showcasing how trees create a healthier environment,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Because of Georgia Tech's participation air will be purer, water cleaner and your students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty the trees provide.”
The Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Georgia Tech achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and a student service-learning project.
According to John Randolph, author of "Environmental Land Use Planning and Management", the first step to responsible urban forest management is to inventory the forest and then to develop a corresponding tree-care plan that provides appropriate care for that forest. Tech conducted its first comprehensive inventory in 2012 and a Tree Management/Care Plan in 2016. The inventory is maintained within GIS files and includes every tree on campus that is greater than two inches in diameter.
In addition to adhering to core tenants of responsible urban forest management, Georgia Tech employs a dedicated tree team and tracks any tree loss in a Tree Bank. The tree team consists of a certified arborist, a tree surgeon and a tree specialist. These staff members execute the tree-care plan and support all decisions related to trees throughout campus. The Tree Bank is a tracking document managed by the Budget Office. This document assures that every tree which is cut down on campus is replaced, caliper to caliper.
The benefits of trees in urban environments are many, from reducing heat island effects, sequestering carbon and even providing a place of rest and reflection for anyone passing through our open campus. Everyone from students, to visitors and even local song birds receive tree benefits. Georgia Tech's fidelity to established processes that support their urban forest is a vibrant blend of beauty, ecology and climate solutions in the city.